Food safety is something that ought to come under the category of essential knowledge. In order to live healthy lives we all need to know what foods are good for us and what foods are bad. However, it’s also about knowing exactly how to prepare certain foods to stay safe and avoid illness. This kind of knowledge isn’t innate. It’s something we must learn from the people around us.
It’s interesting that we think of some foods as being especially dodgy and others as relatively safe, even though the science may suggest that there’s not much difference between the two.
Attitudes to food safety are often determined by social context – old wives’ tales, representation in the media, hearsay, apocryphal ‘facts’ and scientific studies. The latter are made more or less trustworthy depending on how they are funded, so naturally there’s some confusion as to how we ought to treat this or that ingredient.
This topic is relevant to everyone because we’re responsible for our own health and well-being and that of our dependents. However, it’s possibly even more relevant for businesses that provide food because of the sheer number of people they serve. Poor food safety is enough to shut businesses down permanently.
Well-known high-risk foods
It’s relatively easy to think of a couple of examples of foods we don’t trust. Take chicken, for instance, or eggs (which comes first is still a matter of debate.)
These two very popular ingredients are joined on the list of high-risk foods by shellfish. Members of the public are really wary about these foods, and some choose never to eat them just in case. Others only eat them at home where they can be absolutely certain that they have been prepared properly. What they’re frightened of is salmonella.
Food poisoning caused by salmonella, or any other bacteria is very unpleasant and can be extremely dangerous. What people don’t necessarily realise is that all foods are potential poisoners if they are not stored, prepared and cooked in the right way.
Cases of salmonella associated with eggs have dropped significantly since the British Lion standard came into effect, and stringent criteria in food safety regulations make sure underperforming restaurants, takeaways and cafes are prevented from serving customers.
Now, the high-risk list has many more foods on it than eggs, shellfish and chicken and some of them might surprise us.
Little-known food risks
Although eggs, shellfish and chicken are relatively well-known as high-risk foods, there are others that should be included such as rice, couscous and pasta, for instance.
These starchy foods have a high content of moisture. So do lots of ready meals and cooked meats. It’s not widely known that reheating all these foods necessarily involves certain risks – the same level of risk we so readily attach to chicken, eggs and shellfish.
It’s recently been suggested that some of the more high-profile food poisoning outbreaks of recent times were caused by the likes of beansprouts, celery, watercress and curry leaves – not the sorts of foods we think of as being dangerous.
The truth is that they aren’t dangerous in and of themselves. It’s all a question of preparing them properly. This takes the danger out of it completely – provided we can all be sure that standards are upheld when it comes to storage, logistics and the rest. Fortunately, food safety standards are something we can always educate people about.
All the foods mentioned above aren’t dangerous in and of themselves, it’s all a question of preparing them properly. This takes the danger out of it completely – provided we can all be sure that standards are upheld when it comes to storage, logistics and the rest. Fortunately, food safety standards are something we can always educate people about.
The topic of food safety is relevant to everyone because we’re responsible for our own health and wellbeing and that of our dependants. However, it’s possibly even more relevant for businesses that provide food because of the sheer number of people they serve. Poor food safety is enough to shut businesses down permanently.