Hot summer months come accompanied with food and water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea and typhoid. Eating food from road-side vendors, having cut fruits, and drinking contaminated water and juices is usually to blame for frequent gastrointestinal troubles.
“In hot weather, people have two to three times the water that they do in winter months, sometimes from unsafe sources. That is the most common cause of infections. It is best to carry water from home while travelling,” said Dr Anil Arora, chairperson of the department of gastroenterology at Sir Ganga Ram hospital.
Food poisoning can happen even after having home-cooked food that has not been properly handled,or is contaminated or stale.
Microorganisms grow faster in hotter temperatures up to 63oC, especially when there is moisture in the air. Protein-rich food such as milk, meat, and poultry also promote the growth of the germs.
“High temperature is very conducive bacteria growth, so people have to be extremely cautious about what they eat. Bacterial growth on food can either cause infections that will manifest after a few days, or the toxins produced by it in the food before consumption can cause food poisoning, resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea a few hours later. It is advisable to eat freshly cooked food as much as possible and to avoid cut fruits,” said Dr Arora.
Here are some valuable tips from Food Safety and Standards Authority of India on keeping food safe and prevent disease.
Buy fresh: While buying fruits and vegetables, ensure that they are not blemished or bruised, leafy vegetables are not wilted, and they are not pulpy shrivelled or over-ripe.
For eggs, ensure that the shells are not cracked and they do not smell foul.
Do not buy fish in which a depression remains after it is pressed with a finger, or fish with grey gills. Do not buy meat with tough, fibrous flesh that is discoloured or slimy.
Buying packaged foods:Avoid frozen foods that have a large amounts of ice crystals or is thawed; do not buy if the package is leaking. For other foods, ensure that the packets are not deflated or the cans and boxes are not bulging or leaking.
Storing fruits and vegetables: Leafy vegetables must be picked and cleaned and then stored in paper towels (not newspapers) and then kept in plastic bags with holes that allow them to breathe.
Store potatoes, onions, garlic without washing in open baskets.
All other vegetables and fruits should be washed, air dried, and then stored in plastic bags with holes in the refrigerator. Do not keep bananas in the refrigerator.
Always refrigerate milk and milk products such as butter, cheese, and cottage cheese (paneer). Do not store them in the refrigerator door.
Uncooked meat needs to be stored in moisture-proof plastic and stored in the freezer.
Clean your refrigerator inside out every two weeks with a clean cloth, sponge or wipe and sanitizer. Keep allfood covered inside the refrigerator. Always keep cooked food above raw food in the refrigerator to prevent cross–contamination.
Cook food properly and completely. Do not use the same oil for frying repeatedly and always marinate and keep meat or fish in the refrigerator.
Most foods stay safe for a day or two if they are not handled much, stored at the correct temperature and reheated adequately. Cool foods and refrigerate it within two hours of preparing it.
Do not mix fresh food with leftover food while heating. Do not reheat leftovers repeatedly. Make sure to bring gravies to a boil while reheating.