Food safety at home, the IZSV guidelines

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sicurezza-alimentare-IZSV

Shopping, transport, storage, handling and cooking of food, storage of leftovers. Every phase of domestic food management presents risks that are easy to prevent, to avoid poisoning and guarantee food safety. The Venezie Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute (IZSV) dedicates a very useful portal to this topic. (1)

1) Food safety at home, basics

Food safety at home, as in public places e in food delivery, can be undermined by numerous variables. Unawareness of the risks and distractions can cause intestinal disorders but also trigger serious illnesses, in some cases lethal.

Most of the risks it can also be eliminated, provided that some simple precautions are respected.

The four areas the risks to be taken into consideration are:

– biological,

– chemist,

– physicist,

– allergens.

1) Biological risks

Biological risks they concern pathogenic bacteria and viruses that can be transmitted through food and cause infections. Health consequences range from temporary gastrointestinal disorders to serious events in some segments of the population.

Toxinfections they can in fact cause septicemia, encephalitis or meningitis in elderly and immunocompromised people, damage to the fetus or abortion in pregnant women.

Campylobacter and Salmonella, the most widespread pathogens in Europe, have also developed resistance to antibiotics which makes them even more insidious, as the One Health 2022 Report reminds us. (2)

1.1) Refrigerator, freezer, cooking

Pathogenic bacteria they proliferate when the food is left at room temperature. And yet:

  • many pathogens slow down growth, or stop it, when foods are stored at low temperatures (refrigerator, freezer), and
  • almost all pathogens can be inactivated by appropriately cooking the food, even its internal parts, at at least 70°C.

2) Chemical risks

The chemical risk related to food consumption includes all toxic substances that remain due to accidental contamination or due to the choices (or negligence) of operators. Some examples:

– toxins of natural origin, such as mycotoxins, (3)

– environmental contaminants such as pesticides, mineral oils, PFAS, (4,5,6)

– residues of drugs (antibiotics) administered to farm animals, (7)

– acrylamide generated by incorrect food cooking processes (even at home), (8)

– food additives, (9)

– chemical additives added to food containers, especially in fast-food restaurants as we have seen. (10)

2.1) Prevent chemical risk

The chemicals mentioned above can cause toxicity in the short or long term, in some cases even accumulating in the human organism. Children, the elderly and pregnant women are always at greatest risk.

Acrylamide it can be avoided, even at home, by being careful not to cook food at high temperatures for more than a few minutes. Other risks can be avoided and/or mitigated by purchasing organic foods, it is worth adding, since they are made from agricultural raw materials grown without pesticides, foods of animal origin from animals subject to restrictions on the use of antibiotics, products with a third of additives allowed in conventional foods. It is also useful to vary the diet, avoiding always consuming the same foods, to differentiate risks and prevent possible cumulative exposures.

3) Physical risks

Examples of physical risk of foods are caused by the accidental presence of fragments of plastic, metal, glass, wood or stones, bones or bones, shells or stones in processed foods. These small materials can cause – depending on the case – cuts, broken teeth, injuries to the digestive system or even suffocation.

On an industrial level this type of risk is monitored by checking the integrity of the tools and machinery used, as well as with specific procedures and instruments. At home, it is enough to keep a close watch and discard foods that are at risk, for example because they are exposed to splinters if a glass breaks nearby.

4) Food allergies

Some foods they can cause mild to severe, even lethal, reactions in allergic and intolerant subjects. Allergy sufferers know well what to do to prevent accidents. First of all, reading labels and carefully checking the ingredients when consuming food outside the home.

The house – when there are family members, cohabitants or guests who are allergic (or intolerant) to certain foods and ingredients – it is essential to take specific precautions to prevent accidental contamination of the foods intended for them. Which must always be kept in distinct areas and prepared separately, after carefully sanitizing the utensils and worktops.

Allergenic ingredients the most common are cereals containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt), milk, eggs, fish, molluscs and crustaceans, peanuts and tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios), lupins, soya, celery, sesame seeds, mustard, and products derived therefrom. (11)

5) Know the basics of food safety

The IZSV guide provides advice for each phase of meal preparation through explanatory cards and videos. A few pills to follow:

– purchase. Avoid sellers of home-made products without licences, check the integrity of the packaging and the expiry date, discard frozen foods with frost on the packaging (probable indication of the breaking of the cold chain), (12)

 – transportation. Use thermal bags with cooling plates to transport fresh, frozen and deep-frozen products, particularly during the hot seasons, and place them as soon as possible in the fridge and freezer at home,

– storage. The pantry of canned goods must be cool, dry and dark. The refrigerator should be kept at a temperature of +4/+5°C, the freezer at around -17/-18°C. Both require monthly cleaning. When storing food, leave space for the circulation of cold air and separate raw foods from cooked foods, using special airtight containers.

Store the food in the refrigerator on the correct shelf, cooked and ready-to-eat foods, eggs, dairy products, sweets and creams on the central high shelves; raw meat and fish on the lower shelves; fruit and vegetables in the appropriate drawers; drinks, butter and less perishable foods on the door shelves.

It’s still, do not wash eggs to put in the fridge. If necessary, clean them with a damp cloth before use.

5.1) From preparation to cooking

Handle raw foods and cooking also requires attention to personal hygiene: washing your hands well, tying up long hair, wearing an apron. And don’t dedicate yourself to cooking when you are sick, with fever or diarrhea.

The experts at IZSV they even suggest using latex gloves when handling raw foods (especially meat and fish).

The ingredients must be prepared with care. Meat or fish must be defrosted in the fridge or in the microwave or electric oven with the appropriate function (never at room temperature). (13)

5.2) What to wash and what not

Worktops and tools – including i cutting boards – they deserve a wash with soap every time they come into contact with raw meat and unwashed fruit and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables require careful washing in running water before use. ISZV recommends ‘for greater effectiveness, chlorine-based detergents (bicarbonate, on the other hand, is ineffective in eliminating pathogenic microorganisms)’.

Do not wash the meat before cooking it, especially chicken and pork: any splashes could contaminate utensils and work surfaces or other ready-to-eat foods in the kitchen with pathogenic microorganisms.

The eggs, another source of microbial contamination, must not be broken on the edge of the container that will be used to process them. And the shells must be thrown into the waste container immediately.

5.3) Correct cooking

cooking must be suitable for the food:

– accurate and sufficient for foods that could contain pathogenic microorganisms (eggs, meat, fish and shellfish). Using a kitchen thermometer can be useful when cooking in the oven or on the barbecue (14)

– not excessive, avoiding the formation of charred parts, particularly when using grills and plates.

Fry should favor high oleic olive and/or peanut and/or sunflower oils, which should not be reused.

Before steaming, instead, it is suggested to cut or separate the foods into small pieces, for an adequate and uniform heat treatment.

5.4) Consumption and management of leftovers

Consumption advice focus on hygiene, waste reduction and the nutritional value of the meal.

IZSV suggests to wash your hands well before sitting down to the table and to choose nutritionally balanced meals, particularly in the evening.

Any leftovers they require the same care as the foods to be prepared. Never keep them at room temperature longer than necessary and place them in the fridge in the containers, taking care to consume them within two-three days.

Marta Strinati

Footnotes

(1) Food risks and good practices for eviralisation. IZSV https://www.rischialimentari.it/index.html

(2) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo. Trends in zoonoses in the EU, One Health 2022 report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Marta Strinati. Mycotoxins, interview with Carlo Brera, ISS expert. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(4) Marta Strinati. Pesticides in jam. The test of 60 millions de consommateurs. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(5) Marta Strinati. Extra virgin olive oil and contaminants, the new 60 Millions de Consommateurs test. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(6) Marta Strinati. PFAS, go to the limits in meat, fish, eggs and other foods of animal origin. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(7) Dario Dongo. Official controls on veterinary drugs and their residues, reg. EU 2022/1644. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(8) Dario Dongo. Acrylamide in food requires strict limits and effective controls. The instances of SAFE. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(9) Marta Strinati. Titanium dioxide banned in Europe from 2022. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(10) Marta Strinati. PFAS, the toxic chemicals in fast-food containers and tableware. IPEN investigation. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(11) Dario Dongo. Wheat mustard allergen alert, Ministry of Health circular. Analyses. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(12) Marta Strinati. Cold chain and food safety. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(13) Marta Strinati. Defrosting food, a few basic instructions. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(14) Marta Strinati. A perfect barbecue against food poisoning. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".