Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Consumption of cold foods is invariably fraught with food safety risks, especially in many developing countries where traceability of raw material sources is very difficult. Whether it is meat, egg or salad vegetables all of them pose potential health risks due to contamination with bacterial pathogens. Though the conditions in countries like India are favorable for such contamination, paradoxically most cases of illness caused by these foods come from developed countries like the US. Besides Spinach, Tomato, Meat and others, most recent incidence of contamination pertained to egg in the US where half a million Salmonella infected eggs were recalled due to several instances of illness amongst the population there. Now comes the news that India also has to face such problems considering the agricultural practices followed by the farmers, as per a recent report.

It was traditionally believed that neurocysticercosis only spreads through consumption of pork. Now, strict vegetarians are also falling prey to the disease. Water and green leafy vegetables, especially those grown in fields where human faeces is found, are also favoured routes for the tapeworm. "Be careful about what vegetables you eat. Do not eat salads at roadside eateries or wedding functions. Fruits and burgers sprinkled with cabbage are also best given the miss outside the home. At home, vegetables like carrot, turnip, spinach, radish, coriander and cucumber should be washed thoroughly, preferably five or six times. Kebabs made with minced meat often have pork added to them to cut cost. Raw or insufficiently-cooked pork should be avoided at all costs. Poor personal hygiene of persons who handle the food - cooks or waiters is another matter of concern," is Sethi's advice. Padma adds, "Water is another common vehicle. Drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid drinks from vending machines or with ice-cubes. Even simple negligence like failure to wash your hands might cause problems." Verma believes that betel leaves, which might be kept in infected water, chutneys and jaljeera are also best avoided.

Though salad preparations are restricted to a few items like Onion, Cucumber, Green Chilli and Tomato, especially in the northern part of the country during summer, there can be worry about contamination from raw and sliced Tomato and the water used to wash the vegetables. Most other foods are cooked adequately to destroy microbes present on the surface giving very little chance for any food borne illnesses. As for eggs and meat products, they are also consumed only after cooking preempting any possibility of causing harm to the consumer. The increased incidence of Tapeworm infestation, especially amongst vegetarian population is a matter of concern and recent reports of brain afflictions due to cysts from this source is indeed alarming. Good handling practices reported above make sense and need to be widely disseminated.

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