Jamaica Health Tips Blog
|Food Safety Violation: The secrets they don't want you to know
Food Safety is a growing concern in many countries around the world. Many food operators have secretly changed the way in which they process and handle food. With the possibility of getting a food-borne illness on the rise, this book goes into detail about all the things the public needs to know in order to stay safe.
As the bottled water industry grows exponentially in our
Island, so are the lies and deception consumers are fed. Many Jamaicans are being
misled to believe that the highly priced bottled water they are consuming is
actually natural spring water. According to a recent study done by Food
& Water Watch company titled "Take Back the Tap," about 64
percent of bottled water comes from municipal tap water sources.
The study further went
on to reveal that the beverage industry has capitalized on
bottled water sale as a profit centre, and to replace stagnant soft drink sale.
In 2016, bottled water sales surpassed soft drink for the first time as the
largest U.S category by volume. The
marketing hype of drinking several gallons of bottled water a day to be in good
health, is one of their latest marketing strategies
What most people purchased
as natural spring water, is basically filtered piped or tap water. The bottled
water industry has promoted its product as the way to good health and a clean
diet, as a result targeting health conscious individual. In addition, many
skeptics believed that they also subtly suggest that bottled water is superior
to tap water during their campaign and advertisements. This is the reason
several persons tend to avoid drinking water from the tap and stock up on
It’s not that I am
saying that drinking water will not improve your health, but misleading people
to think that they are paying for naturally pure water is totally unethical.
Furthermore, the health implications of drinking bottled water when
compared to drinking tap water are mind boggling. Various studies have revealed
that, bottled water have been supplemented with certain mineral such as Sodium
and Potassium, causing increase levels of these elements that are harmful for
people at risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Increase temperatures of bottled water when left in a
hot car or other environment, is responsible for the release of antimony from
polyethylene terephthalate plastics used for water bottles. Antimony is a
regulated contaminant that can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even chronic
health effects in drinking water. Additionally, over consuming certain minerals like
Fluoride can harm our bodies. For instance, levels of fluoride above 1.5 mg/L
would increase our risk of dental fluorosis, despite its benefits in protecting
us from tooth decay. It is a concern that bottled water contains fluoride
levels that are 12% to 218% of the recommended daily intake, much higher than
that of tap water (0% to 62%)
Needless to say, that plastic bottles don’t do good
for our environment either. Most times these products end up in our drains,
rivers and oceans. This creates a myriad of environmental health challenges in
our country such as flooding and solid waste management issues. A 2017 study
calculated that 18 trillion pounds of plastic has been produced globally
between 1960 and 2015, 79 percent of which (about 14 trillion) has accumulated
in landfills or natural environment including in our oceans.
In conclusion, deceiving the public to think they are
purchasing one thing while being sold something different is never acceptable
and is totally unethical.
Where does your bottled water comes from?
It’s that time of the
year again when many new mothers will suffer through what we call separation
anxiety asthey drop off their
little ones at an Early Childhood Institution. The tearful eyes and tantrum
filled goodbyes will make them wish they could spend the entire day. But
knowing that they are in good hands and a safe environment will definitely ease
the pressure. As we look forward to that time, here are some very important
things you should check for at the ECI you will be leaving your child.
An Early Childhood
Institution according to the Early Childhood Regulation 2005 means; a place
that care for four are more children under the age of six years for more than
six hours a day. These institutions include daycare centres, basic
schools, infants’ schools’ pre-schools and kindergartens. Almost all Jamaican
infants attend an Early Childhood Institution in the first years of their
lives; hence it’s very important that they are safe and healthy during their
The infrastructure of these
facilities must be secure and sturdy, weather tight to protect infants from
rain and sun. It must be adequately lit and ventilated. Floors and food contact
surfaces (counters) should be repair to facilitate easy cleaning and a smooth
finish e.g. tiles.
supplied to these facilities should be of a reputable source such as the
National Water commission. This is to ensure that the water use for drinking is
safe and adequate.
The premises should be
equipped with garbage receptacles that meets public health standard to ensure
wastes are stored properly. This will prevent fly breeding, rodent’s
proliferation and other pests which may lead to serious health
The physical layout of the
premises should be of such that children have adequate play space both in and out
Children at these
facilities should always be on the ground floor, away from latch gates and
items that may be harmful to them such as pointed edges and chemicals. The
premises should consist of a sick bay, changing area, feeding and sleeping area.
Toilet facility must be
provided for both staff and children. One toilet facility for every 20 children
and one face basin for every 40 children. These should be the height of a
wheelchair so children can comfortably access them.
As parents we
should provide the child’s immunization card and other records to prove your
child’s well-being before he or she is accepted into the institution.
Staff and children should wash hands regularly, especially after
using the toilet facility and before eating and preparing food.
not be allowed to share toys that can be place in the mouth and for other
playing items, they should be washed and disinfected on a regular basis. All
cribs sheets, pillow slips, bedding and equipment should be washed and
disinfected at least once per week.
should be equipped with a fully supplied first aid kit. In the event of an
emergency school administrators should have the relevant contact information at
hand for the health facility, fire department etc. Additionally, the facility
should be equipped with atleast two fire extinguisher is a conspicuous location.
Finally, and most
importantly the facility should have sufficient staffing to adequately and
comfortably attend to each child.
Children under 1 yr – 1
staff to 5 children
Children 1- 2 yrs - 1 staff to
8 children and
Children 3- 5 yrs – 1 staff to
Staff should be in good
mental, physical health, sound and good moral ethics with no prove of any
Remember our children
are our future; hence we need to protect them today so they will grow to be
strong and health leaders of tomorrow.
How safe do you think your child is at school?
A super power that
most Jamaican seems to possess is the ability to test the temperature of foods
with their bare hands. Quite often one would use the back of their hand to test
how hot a bottle of feed is or how cold the temperature in the refrigerator is.
Funny! But it’s the truth. Despite this practice may not cause tremendous harm
in the home setting, when practiced by food service operators it could result
in catastrophic health effects on the Jamaican population. The temperature of
food can only be tested correctly by the use of a thermometer. Using a thermometer
to monitor the temperature of foods while you process, store and distribute
them will give you a clear insight of what is happening to the food. Most food
service operators constantly ignore the importance of this instrument in their
day to day operation and repeatedly abuse the temperature of the food they
According to the Centre
of Disease Control and prevention, two of
the top five risk factors responsible for causing food-borne illness involve
temperature control. The risk factors are improper hot/cold holding
temperatures of potentially hazardous food and improper cooking temperatures of
food. Therefore, when negligence is practiced and food is left out in
the danger zone, microorganism will start to multiple in the food and rendering
the food unsafe.
range of temperatures that fall between 4.4 degree Celsius and 63.7 degree Celsius are
what the food service industry refers to as the danger zone. Food service
operators must minimize the amount of time foods are left at these temperatures
to prevent food-borne illnesses. The rule of thumb to always remember is to keep
hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
it relates to the thermometer, they are numerous types. However, the two most
commonly used types are the probe and the infrared thermometer. The probe thermometer
is a thermometer that has a pointy metal stem that can be inserted into food.
Use a probe thermometer to check internal food temperatures when you cook,
re-heat, cool thaw and keep foods hot or cold. While the infrared
thermometer that takes the temperature of the food without coming in contact
with the food. Therefore, only the surface temperature of the food that will be
a food premises inspection, a thermometer is one device a food service operator
is expected to have. This will enable him or her to do their own temperature
monitoring of the food they are preparing, as they will be expected to fill out
the temperature log of each food prepared. This document is very crucial in an
inspection, since the Public Health Inspector will be checking it to asses the
safety of the food being sold.
you sometimes eat food that is at room temperature? Leave your comments below.
It’s a customary practice for Jamaicans and other Caribbean
people to rinse their meats in a mild acidic solution prior to cooking. This cultural
technique has been practiced for many years, and is now causing a great
controversy in the food safety community. Many Jamaicans normally practice this
technique especially when they are preparing chicken, fish or other meats that
have a high raw or animal odour. Additionally, it is believed that rinsing meat
in lime, lemon or vinegar water will also reduce the bacteria that maybe present.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service, washing raw poultry before cooking is not recommended.
This is so, because bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to
other foods, utensils, and surfaces. Rinsing or soaking chicken does not
destroy bacteria., only cooking does.
Few skeptics are totally against this statement, as
they argue that the studies done on these products, did not include the use of
lime, vinegar or lemon water, but merely pure water. Having make such an
absolute statement they believe the statement is very misleading and may cause
more harm than good. Others have even put forth the question that wasn’t the
germs on the meat harmful before it contaminates other surfaces? Cooking meat
with that strong animal smell and bloody water at 350 degrees is basically
cooking and eating 350 degrees of filth.
One reason, this statement is backed by most food
safety regulatory body is that, during the washing of meats, spillage from the
meat could contaminate kitchen utensils, counter tops and other areas we may be
unaware of. Therefore, simply wiping down your kitchen counter will not clean
your kitchen to a safe enough level. As a result, while performing other task
the possibility of spreading germ to other areas is high.
The on-going debate in the food safety community is
one that has caught the attention of many. Some strongly opposing the
statement, while the anti-rinsing camp is growing by the minute. In spite of
the number of studies done, culturally most persons may find it difficult to do
away with this practice. This is because it is arguable that the washing of meat
in mild acidic solution does not only reduce germs and rawness on the meat but
also adds flavour.
Do you rinse your meat before cooking?
If you are a Jamaican, then the five-second rule or the
three-second rule is a well-known food hygiene concept that you have probably heard
of. The five-second rule is simply picking up food after it has been dropped and thus
exposed to contamination. If the food falls
within a five seconds window or less, then the food is considered safe to eat. But
is this customary practice a myth or fact?
According to a paper published in the journal of
applied biology, five-seconds is way too long. Microorganisms adhere to food
almost immediately when dropped. After
five-seconds, they found that the food had acquire anywhere between 150-8000
bacteria and if left for a minute the number will be ten times greater.
Considering it only takes about 10 bacteria of certain
strain of salmonella to get you sick, you probably should think twice before
eating foods off the ground. In most instances persons may think the floor is clean
because it looks clean but remember we cannot see microorganisms with our naked
It’s important to note, that the ground is the ideal
home for bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms. This is because the
floor comes in contact with the bottom of our shoes. As was noted by the University
of Arizona, 93% of our shoes are contaminated with fecal bacteria. This
therefore means that foods that fall to the ground will instantaneously be
contaminated with them.
Interestingly thou, there
are studies that show that woman practice the five -second rule more than male
as they are more familiar with the rule. Additionally, in some household it is
only customary for the five second rule to be practiced in private or around
family, however in social gathering, restaurants or when guests are around it
Foods contaminated with microorganisms
can result in sickness or even death. Make the necessary adjustment to only
consume foods that are clean and wholesome. Remember your health is your responsibility,
be wise about what you eat today.
Did you believe in the five
As I seek to educate the public on critical topics such
as cleaning and sanitization of utensils and equipment. I am always disappointed
with the little they know about how to effectively clean. Many Jamaicans when
asked how they would clean a dirty surface, will tell you they use bleach and
soap to get rid of dirt. The shocking reality is, most cleaning agents contain
ammonia and other chemicals, which when combined with bleach form very deadly and
A very common one is known
as Chloramine; this chemical is a derivative of ammonia that is formed by the
replacement of multiple hydrogen atoms with chlorine atoms. There are widespread reports of health problems
from chloramines. Chloramine is a volatile gas
that can result in death if inhaled in a confined space, like a shower, closet,
or closed garage
Additionally, the mixing of certain detergent and
chlorine will reduce its potency. This is because
the detergent components become very unstable when they react to bleach and loses
its emulsifying property. As for the disinfectant property of the
chlorine, it will be less effective in killing some of the most common pathogenic
microorganisms you find on the items you clean.
Have you ever
experience a bubbling effect when you pour bleach into soap water? This
reaction is as a result of mixing an acidic detergent with chlorine. The effects
from such reaction are numerous and very severe.
Acids are present in glass and window cleaner, automatic dishwasher detergents
and rinses, toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, lime, calcium and rust
removers, and brick and concrete cleaners.
a product containing acid is mixed with chlorine bleach, chlorine gas is formed.
If a person is exposure to Chlorine gas, even at low levels, it will irritate
the mucous membranes and causes coughing and breathing problems. In higher
levels it may result in chest pain, vomiting, pneumonia and fluid in the lungs
and at very high levels of exposure can cause death.
not just ammonia and acids mixed with bleach that can be hazardous to your health.
Certain cleaning product that are high in alkalinity with highly acidic
products are very caustic. These products can react violently, causing chemical
conclusion, it is crucial that we stay away from mixing household chemicals and
ensure we read our labels to see how we should mix them.
We have to take our health seriously and it starts from the little things we take for granted on a daily basis.
Have you ever mixed cleaning detergent with chlorine
Many persons might have never asked the question, what
cause food to spoil? But in their private thoughts this un-answered question
lingers. We have been impregnated with articles on food safety, how to identify
spoiled foods and the implications of consuming them, but rather seldomly, are
we given the knowledge on what cause our foods to spoil.
As outlined in an article written byLohani and Garg, 2009 titled, Food Spoilage and Control. Food spoilage is an undesirable change that has occurred
in the colour, flavour, odour, or texture of the food. The onset of food spoilage is rather indefinite. It is a
gradual process occurring because of poor sanitation, enzymatic
or chemical reactions, improper temperature control, microbial growth or
physical abuse of the food.
This therefore means, that it is not just the growth of
microorganisms on foods that cause them to spoil. Food can be spoil in two ways;
microbial spoilage and non-microbial spoilage. Here now are the factors that are
associated with each spoilage.
All foods contain some level of microbes on them even
before they enter the food chain. These microbes could be natural flora that
exist on the food or it could be from the environment e.g. soil or air. In essence,
we could say that the food was contaminated with microbes even before we come in contact
with it. Therefore, for microbes to multiple on the food to cause it to spoil,
there has to be some intrinsic or extrinsic factor fueling such process.
Foods containing nutrients, water availability (high
in moisture), oxygen, low in acidity and is not being stored at the correct temperature
will facilitate the rapid growth of microbes in them. What we really consider
spoilage to be could actually be a delicacy in other cultures. As what
appears to be undesirable to our sense of appeal, is in fact the reaction and
metabolic activities of the microbes. During the process of them growing, they
are producing acids, gases, slimes, toxins, waste and other by-products. These are
what we are seeing on the food, not the microbes themselves. It is therefore, for
this reason why they appear to be undesirable.
It should not be mistaken to think that spoiled foods
are all safe to consume, however; its imperative to note that not all spoiled foods
are unsafe. E.g. Wine, Yogurt, cheese, pickles, sauerkraut etc. These foods are
derivatives of foods that have undergone some level of undesirable changes in
there flavour, colour, texture and odour. In other words, the milk has to
undergo a state of spoilage in order for it to be in a form to make cheese.
With that said, its crucial that we understand that
the process is done under a controlled environment and readers should never think
to consume spoil foods. As there could be serious health implications associated
with such practice, if foods are not first pass fit for human consumption.
As was mentioned before, food spoilage is not only the
result of microbial effects, but also factors such as chemical reaction in the
food itself or with its packaging material. Enzymes are naturally occurring chemicals
found in all living things. There function is to speed up or slows down the
chemicals in the foods that cause them to go through the different stages of
maturity. E.g. the banana which was unfit, then become ripened after which it
becomes over ripened and there is a change in its texture, colour, odour and flavor.
Another form of chemical reaction that also occurs in
food is called rancidity. This is actually the oxidation, hydrolytic or ketonic
break down of fatty acids in foods to a smaller form, releasing certain odiferous
The packaging material e.g. cans used in packaging
foods can also react with the food. Additionally,
if foreign objects such as; bolts, nails, nuts etc. contaminate the food, it may result in a chemical reaction which cause
an undesirable change in the food.
In conclusion, food spoilage is not necessary an undesirable thing, as some foods have to undergo certain changes in order to facilitate the creation of other foods.
Have you ever eaten spoiled food?
While many Jamaicans consider it to be a cheaper
alternative to fresh food, canned foods have been a staple in many families’
diet around the world since the nineteenth century. Once canning was perfected on an
industrialized scale in 1813, there has been a steady increase in the variety
of foods being canned. Canned foods are considered to be commercially sterile, as
all microorganism are destroyed when the sealed can is heated to very high temperature.
This is the reason canned foods have such long self-live.
It can be difficult to the untrained eyes to know when
canned foods are unsafe and unfit for consumption. As a result, it occurred to
me to discuss some basic methods Jamaicans can use to assess the safety and
wholesomeness of their canned foods before they purchase them.
of outer appearance
Anormal can should possess a clean appearance, free from rust,
dust, stains, holes, bulge and have slightly concave ends. Seams should be intact
and free from leaks with label clearly showing the content of can, brand and
the weight of the product. (e.g. Grace Corned Beef, 400g.)
This is the process of
applying pressure to one end of the can, if it flips back and return to its
original position when release, then early stage of decomposition as started. This is known as a Flipper.
A springer is when pressure is applied to one end of the can, resulting in a distention to the other end that will not return to its original position when released.
This is because the microorganism would have produced more gas in it, when compared to the Flipper.
A bulging can does not
always means its content is decomposing. It could be that the can was inadequately
vacuumed during the canning process, the can was overfilled during canning or there is a
chemical reaction between the food and the can. This process is called hydrogen swelling.
This is the process of
tapping on the can to assess the quality of the food. If the can is sound, when
tapped it will give off a dull note. On the contrary, if gas is in the can it
will give off a higher pitch.
This method is only
applicable with canned foods that are not prepared with any liquor (sauce) in it,
e.g. canned corned beef. This process is done by shaking the product back and
forth and listening for a watery sound. Hearing any movement or watery sound in
a can signifies that decomposition has started and the food is
Canned foods can also deteriorate
without showing any form of gas production in the tin. This is called flat sour and occurs when thermophiles
(heat loving microbes) produce acid in the can but not gas. This is impossible
to detect expect by opening the can. Its very critical to note that this
product should not be consumed as it is unfit for human consumption.
Despite canned foods are considered one of the safest food to consume, they can cause severe health implications or even death if consumed when they are not safe.
Are you inspecting your
canned foods for safety?
As many Jamaicans venture week by week in the
marketplace to purchase their grocery, very few are familiar with the
profiteering business of the food industry. Most food places are seemingly
focused on sales and profits, rather than ensuring that safe and wholesome foods
are sold to the public. In this week’s health tip, we will be disclosing five
food secrets you need to consider when grocery shopping.
According to CBC News in 2015, best before date tells
a consumer how long that food will keep its flavor and nutritional value. It
doesn’t have anything to do with the safety of the food. On the other
hand, raw meats, deli meats and soft cheeses should never be consumed pass
their best before dates. This is because these high-risk foods have the
potential to grow pathogens that can get us sick.
Did you know, that there have
been reports of operators tampering with best before dates? As noted by several
food investigators online, staff from various food places have reported to have
change the dates on whole cakes that have passed their best before date. These
items are then re-packaged in smaller serving size with a new best before date.
In addition, fruit tart is another food that have been reported to be re-surfaced
with fresh topping and fruits then given a new best before date after they have
gotten old and moldy. This practice can be
very dangerous, as it can result in aspergillus, a very dangerous mold remaining
on the tarts and producing micro toxin which can be very fatal over time
or swollen can products
Can products are normallydesigned with a protective sheeting inside it, the function of
this protective layer is to create a barrier, so as to prevent the content of
the can from coming in contact with the metal. Whenever a can gets a sharp dent,
it may compromise its quality hence exposing the metal to the food. This could cause
the can to rust hence creating pin holes in it and facilitating the entry of pathogenic
microbes in the can.
On the contrary, a swollen can could signify that the
content of the can has been contaminated with Clostridium Botulinum. This microbe is a spore-forming anaerobic
bacterium, which is found normally in the soil and on produce. This therefore
means that during the harvesting and preparing of the food to be canned, Clostridium would have contaminated
the food. Can foods that appear swollen should never be consume, as it may
result in paralysis or even death.
and seasoned meats
It has been reported that there have been unscrupulous
operators, who have disguised the staleness and oldness of meat by grounding fresh
meats and stale meats together. Staled meats have also been reported to have been
dipped in blood to increase its red appearance then re-labeled with a new best
before date. The CBC news in 2015 has also stated that persons have seasoned old
meat and sold it to the public to disguise its staleness. In most cases grounded
and seasoned meats are sold at an increase price when compare to whole and
for one promotions or items on sale
Its very important to check dates on food items that
are on two-for-one promotion or sale. This is because it could be that the best
before date will soon expiry and operators are trying to get them out the food
premises before they become stale and spoil.
your items from the back of the shelf
Most food store practice a first in first out stock
rotation method when stocking their shelves. This therefore means that the
fresher foods are normally located at the back. Additionally, if shelves are
stock from bottom to top with the same food items, the fresher foods are
located on the bottom shelve. This is process is done to make the less fresher
food more accessible to customer so as to get them out the food store and
In conclusion, its very crucial that as consumers we
make informed choices when we are purchasing foods. Inspect your foods
carefully and check your label and dates. Remember your health is your responsibility.
you purchasing safe food in the marketplace?