“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” as said by the Benjamin Franklin, which implies how much safety is necessary for leading a healthy life especially in terms of food. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, by the Government of India, is the regulating body related to food safety and laying down of standards of foods in India. Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation and storage of food in ways that prevent food borne illness. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potentially severe health hazards. It is a vital component of public health and the general public is increasingly aware that it should be well controlled and insist that the authorities analyze the possible risks and implement effective control measures. Food safety is of utmost importance as it includes all the measures to ensure that food will not cause harm to consumers when it is prepared or eaten according to its intended use. Ensuring food safety is very essential for human health protection. It plays an important role, whether produced at home and consumed, imported or exported and thus is critical for consumers and business. According to FAO/WHO, Food safety is defined as “all conditions and measures that are necessary during production, processing, storage, distribution and preparation of food to ensure that it is safe, sound, wholesome and fit for consumption”. Food safety is concerned with preventing food products not fit for human consumption reaching the consumers. It is important for safe production of animal products and quality assurance and it prevents food borne illness.
Food means a raw, cooked or processed edible substance, ice, beverage or ingredient used or intended for use or for sale in whole or in part for human consumption. Food can transmit diseases from person to person as well as serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning. In developed countries there are intricate standards for food preparations, whereas in lesser developed countries the main issue is simply the availability of adequate safe water, which is usually a critical item. In theory, food poisoning is 100% preventable. Unsafe food causes food borne illness which is defined as diseases usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food. There can be outbreak of food borne diseases which means occurrence of two or more cases of a similar illness resulting from the ingestion of a common food.
Major types of food borne illnesses are infection, intoxication and toxin-mediated infection. The three microbiological hazards of concern regarding these illnesses are bacteria, viruses and parasites. A fungus like yeast and mould cause food spoilage but does not cause food borne illness. Infection occurs when a person eats food containing harmful micro organisms which then grow in the intestinal tract and cause illness. Some bacteria, viruses and parasites cause foodborne illness via infection. An intoxication results when a person eats food containing toxins that cause illness. Toxins are produced by harmful micro organisms or the result of a chemical contamination or are naturally part of a plant or seafood. Some bacteria cause an intoxication but viruses and parasites do not cause food borne intoxication. A toxin mediated infection (toxi-infection) occurs when a person eats food containing harmful bacteria and they produce toxins in the intestinal tract that cause illness. Viruses and parasites also do not cause toxin mediated infection. In indian situation there are bunches of factors compromising on food safety like small production with large numbers of unit resulting in sampling problem, high monitoring cost and low value of animals and animal products, less developed international trade, inadequate infrastructure for monitoring and quality control, variable processing and consumption pattern, lack of awareness, no appropriate sampling plan, inadequate feed resources, indiscriminate use of chemicals, unorganized animal products sector, constraints of potable water supply affecting hygiene, natural calamities, lack of cold chain facilities, fast changing life style etc. One of the very common conditions that occurs through contaminated food is food poisoning. Foods eaten raw are common sources of food poisoning because they do not go through the cooking process. Occasionally food can come in contact with the organisms present in faecal matter, this commonly happens when a person preparing food does not wash their hands before cooking. Common symptoms of food poisoning include abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of appetite, mild fever, weakness, nausea, headache etc. Mild cases of food poisoning are treated with fluid replacements, drinks high in electrolytes and control of nausea and vomiting.A 2003 World Health Organization (WHO) report concluded that about 30% of reported food poisoning outbreaks in the WHO European Region occur in private homes. According to WHO in the USA alone annually there are 76 million cases of food borne illness leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.
To achieve food safety some measures can be taken like following standard practices of food production, processing, marketing, development of relevant standard, enforcement of standards, commitment to obtain food safety objectives, adequate food production, improving standard of living, research and development efforts, awareness programme etc. According to WHO, there are five key principles of food hygiene, they are– a) Prevent contamination of food with pathogens spreading from people, pets and pests, b) Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contaminating the cooked foods, c) Cook foods for the appropriate length of time and at the appropriate temperature to kill pathogens, d) Store food at the proper temperature, and e) Do use safe water and cooked materials. Safer food promises healthier and longer lives and less costly health care, as well as a more resilient food industry. For ensuring safe food, from farm to plate, it is necessary that we put food safety as first priority because safe food saves life and food safety is gainful. It is the quality that matters not the quantity and as quoted “it is better to correct an unsafe friend than to bury one”.
(References are available on request)
~Arifa Khatun,3rd Year Student, B.V.Sc. & A.H., Lakhimpur College of Veterinary Science,
Assam Agricultural University, Joyhing, North Lakhimpur, Assam- 787051, India.
Her Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: +91-9706995464.