With the Christmas holidays just days away, the country’s Chief Health Inspector, Sharon Martin, is cautioning against poor food handling and preparation practices.
The risk of becoming stricken with foodborne illnesses heightens during holidays when people tend to become lax when handling, preparing, and storing their meals.
Martin is therefore appealing to the public to pay close attention to how they prepare their food and to be mindful that they are cooked at the correct temperature and for the recommended length of time.
“Ham, turkey, chicken, you name it, they are potentially hazardous foods meaning that they maintain the growth of microorganisms that will make us sick.
“So, keep them away, we are not friends with those bacteria. Prepare food at the right time, serve food at the right time and we will keep illness at bay,” Martin cautioned.
Martin continued that home cooks should be mindful of the temperature at which poultry and pork products, which are popular at this time of year, are cooked.
The recommendation is that they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
“I advise cooking close to food serving time is the best thing because you won’t have that food sitting down at room temperature for an extended period of time. If you do that, you’ll be playing the game that bacteria with potentially hazardous food will poison us.
“We don’t want no illness around this time,” Martin said.
According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), more than 210,000 people suffer an episode of foodborne illness every day in the Americas and half of them are children under 5.
During the holidays, the risk of these illnesses increases because of poor handling and inadequate refrigeration of foods that are prepared ahead of time and in large quantities.
In its five keys to safer food, both PAHO and the WHO recommend using safe water and ingredients, keeping hands, utensils and surfaces clean, cooking food thoroughly, keeping food at safe temperatures and separating raw from cooked food.