BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Food Safety



Food Safety is a public health issue that involves the handling, preparation and storage of foods in ways that prevent or reduce the risk of contamination from external sources. Consumption of contaminated foods results in individuals becoming sick from the food, referred to as food borne illnesses. Food safety is a global and public health concern that encompasses a variety of different areas of everyday life. Food contamination is a part of food safety; there is a lot more to food safety than handling, preparing and storing foods properly decrease the chances of contamination. The choice of what and how to eat is perhaps the most important aspect of food safety. We all have to choose between healthy diets (diets high in fibre, low in saturated and trans-fat) and unhealthy diets (diets high in saturated and trans-fat but low in fibre). Unhealthy diet is associated with chronic diseases like cancers particularly colorectal cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Beyond these health benefits/risks, it is also important to stay away from unsafe sea foods such as the puffer fish delicacy. These types of foods are very common in Asia and cause quite a number of deaths; first timers and people not used to these foods should make sure they are properly cooked. Not every food must be eaten!! I mean, you don’t just pick any mushroom in Scandinavia and eat because you want to eat mushroom. You must check if it has white gills like most poisonous ones or you run the risk of eating the death cap.

On a daily basis, avoiding spoilt foods, unlabelled or improperly labelled foods and disfigured canned foods are good food choices. Due to the nature of the 21st century society, people are switching more to produced and processed food which are often stored in containers like cans, sachets etc. This has led to addition of substances to food which act as preservatives, flavours, sweeteners, stabilizers. These food additives, even though they are added for beneficial reasons, some of them like nitrates used in meat preservation are dangerous to health in this case with a known risk of colon cancer. This is why they are tested and guaranteed by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA); then clearly written on the food label. This helps people to make better choices if they want to limit the intake of any substance for any reason.

The case is quite different for food adulteration which involves addition of inferior and harmful substances that mimic the desired substance but with reduced quality. It is important to note that food adulteration is a criminal offence as individuals have the right to expect a certain quality of food they purchase; and food adulteration tramples on this right with impunity. It is mostly due to profit drive but can also be due to increased demand and lack of strong regulatory food laws. Some adulterants and food involved with ways to detect the adulterant are

  • Mustard oil(adulterant is argemone oil): Shake and heat mustard oil with drops of nitric acid for 2 minutes, argemone oil is present if it turns red
  • Salt/sugar (chalk powder): Stir in a spoonful of the salt in a glass of water. If the solution turns white and a residue settles at the bottom, it indicates the presence of chalk.
  • Turmeric powder (adulterant-metanil yellow, chalk powder, lead chromate): Add a teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of warm water. Do not stir it and leave it still for a while. Check after about 20 minutes. If the powder settles down at the bottom of the glass with clear water above, the turmeric is pure.
  • Chilli powder(brick powder): Adulterant settles on addition of water

These imitations pose serious health risk to consumers and must be taken seriously. As many persons are ignorant of them and the fact that people will not usually carry out these tests, it left for the government to enact strong regulatory laws and policies along with strong surveillance systems to stop this menace. Finally, the fuss about genetically modified foods (or bioengineered foods if you like)  deserves mention. Whether GMOs have future harmful effects is unproven but the general consensus is that they are at least safe for now.

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