Jamaica Health Tips Online - Protecting the Environment, Protecting your Health

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The great controversy: To rinse or not to rinse?
The ugly truth behind the famous five-second rule
Deadly mistakes most Jamaicans make when cleaning.
Myth or science: The culprit of food spoilage
Canned foods: Inspecting for safety.


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Jamaica Health Tips Blog

The great controversy: To rinse or not to rinse?

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?

The ugly truth behind the famous five-second rule

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 eyes.

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 is unacceptable.

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 second rule?


Deadly mistakes most Jamaicans make when cleaning.

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 carcinogenic compounds.

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. 

When 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.
It’s 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 burns. 

In 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 bleach?

Myth or science: The culprit of food spoilage

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.

Microbial 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.
Non-microbial Spoilage  
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 products.
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?

Canned foods: Inspecting for safety.

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.

  •  Observation 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.)

  • Palpation
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.

  • Percussion
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.

  •  Shaking
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 not safe.
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?

Top five things you must consider when grocery shopping at the food store.

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.

Best before date
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
Dented 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.

Grounded 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 fresher meats.
Two 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.

Choose 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 prevent spoilage.  
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.
Are you purchasing safe food in the marketplace?

Mosquitoes: Why are they attracted to us?

Ever wonder why mosquitoes are attracted to some people when compare to others? Many Jamaicans believed that if your blood is sweet, then mosquitoes will be more inclined to bite you more than others. With us having over 3,000 species of mosquitoes, only three are predominantly responsible for the transmission of diseases. These are the Anopheles, Culex and Aedes and some of the diseases that are transmitted by them are Malaria, Encephalitis and Dengue respectively.

Mosquitoes being so persistent and irritating at times, possesses an uncanny ability to sense our murderous intention and take flight before one of our fatal swats. However, before taking a blood meal, a mosquito would normally probe the surface of the skin, using sensory organs to find the perfect area to strike a blood vessel. It then injects its proboscis in your skin, releasing saliva in your blood vessel to prevent clotting and facilities the free flow blood. This is when its possible for this vector to transmit disease causing microbes in your body.
With that in mind here are a few reasons mosquitoes are more attracted to some people more than others;

High body temperature
Persons with high body temperature will be more likely to be bitten by one of these vectors e.g. pregnant women. Normal areas of our body with high temperature are our foreheads, neck, wrists and elbows. However, a person who has just finish some vigorous activity and is hot will have blood closer to the surface of their skin. As a result, the mosquito will use the heat to determined where blood is closer to the skin.

Carbon Dioxide
Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, therefore a person who breathes heavily, will cause the mosquito to hone in on them as it follows the steady flow of the gas. This is why you will hear them buzzing right at your ear line. So, as you exhale carbon dioxide through your nose, it travels at the side of the face along the ear line, where the vector follows the trail.

As we indulge in various activities or due to an increase in our body temperature, the body will start to producing sweat to facilities cooling down. When ever we sweat there is an increase in the secretion of lactic acid through our skin. Mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid and this will make you their prime victim.

Blood Type
According to several prominent Entomologists, mosquitoes are believed to be more attracted to a person with a Type O when compare to a Type A or Type B. it has also been deduced that persons with certain genetic are greater attractant to mosquitoes than others.
In order to protect yourself from mosquito bites, always wear mosquito repellant containing DEET and light coloured clothing to keep cool.

Are you protecting yourself from mosquito bites?

Hurricane Season 2018: The Top 5 Things you Must Do!

Hurricane Season 2018: The Top 5 Things you Must Do!

As we reluctantly welcome the 2018 hurricane Season, many Jamaicans are carelessly living day by day without a disaster preparedness plan. A hurricane can cause widespread devastation and catastrophic effects on not just lives and properties but also the economy. As mentioned in a post printed by AccuWeather.com, the official season begins June 1, 2018 and will end November 30, 2018. It is also predicted by many geologists that the season will be a very active one.
Therefore, planning and preparing are the only two things that will help you to be safe and resilient in the wake of a hurricane. The ability to quickly recover following a hurricane requires focus, preparedness, advance planning, and knowing what to do.
Against that background, here are a few things you must do to be prepared;
Check gutters, drainage and tall trees around your home.
 Clean all gutters and drains to ensure that there is no obstruction that could hinder the free flow of water during rainfall. Additionally, observe water flow around your house during rainy time, this will give you an indication of how high water will rise and if there is need for additional drainage. Cut down tall trees and over-hanging limbs that could cause damage to roof and house during high winds.
Caulk cracks and seams.
Using caulk to seal cracks and seams in wall, could save you hundreds of thousands during a hurricane. This will make your home impervious to water and protects your home other valuables during a heavy rainfall.
Evaluate the sturdiness of your roof.
Checking the roof of your home are among-st the first things you should do before the hurricane. This should take precedence, especially if your home has gone through a previous hurricane. The strong winds during a hurricane can wreak havoc on your roof, therefore checking for loose, missing or materials in disrepair are very crucial. 
Having a battery powered weather radio during a hurricane is imperative. Why? In most instances during a hurricane the electricity will go. As a result, having a battery powered weather radio will help you keep up to date on the news and weather reports.
Things such as can foods, other non-perishable food item and safe drinking water are a must have during the hurricane season.  Also having emergency equipment such as band aides, dressing items and antiseptic is very crucial just in case you need to treat a wound during a hurricane.
In conclusion, a hurricane is no joking matter, failing to prepare is basically preparing you and your family to be at great risk. Knowing where the nearest shelter is located and planning alternate routes to get there should be amongst some of the things in your disaster plan. Emergency number such as an ambulance services, the Police and the fire department are vital as well. Remember your health is your responsibility, so be prepared and get ready for this hurricane season.

Are you prepared for hurricane season 2018?

Sleep Paralysis; the spirit in your dreams

Ever woken up from a bad dream, only to realize you are pinned down to your bed and cannot move?

I bet you have, this feeling of being out of control is known as Sleep Paralysis. Many Jamaicans would claim they have been held down by evil spirit while others said they have even seen ghosts. According to an article written by the NHS Choice; “sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move or speak that happens when you're waking up or, less commonly, falling asleep.”

So in essence, your brain has woken up but your body is still in a state of sleep, which normally cause the muscles to be paralyzed. Despite, the muscles of the body being briefly paralyzed, you are still able to breath and even see in some cases.

It has been noted in several research that sleep paralysis has been experienced by majority of the population at some time in their live.  Researchers have even went on to say that most of these occurrences take place while the individual is sleeping on his or her back. Sleep paralysis may even cause individuals to experience hallucination, this is reason they may have sense ghost or evil spirit in their presence. This terrifying but harmless experience can last from few seconds to even minutes.

Wondering what could possibly cause such dreadful experience? Here are a few causative factors;

  • Sleep deprivation - the less sleep you get and the more exhausted you are, the more likely you are to experience sleep paralysis.

  • Family History - family history plays a very important role in our health and wellness, thus sleep paralysis is just one more thing in our life it will impact on.

  • Age – sleep paralysis has been reported mostly in the teens and young adults.

Sleep paralysis is also being rumored to be linked to mental illnesses such as bipolar and stress therefore, it’s important to check with your doctor if you have any of these concerns:

To reduce and eliminate the occurrence of sleep paralysis is to have a healthy sleeping life and to take care of your personal health through regular exercise and a proper diet.

Have you ever experience sleep paralysis?  

Five biggest mistakes we make when trying to lose weight

As the reality of the New Year sets in, many Jamaicans are eager to drop all the pounds they have packed on during the festive season.  Needless to say though, a lot of us will be in the same spot as we were last year or even the year before. Within a month or two many of us would have lost all hope in accomplishing our weight loss goal, mainly because we have made the very same mistakes year after year. Against that back ground, here are the five biggest mistakes we make when trying to lose weight;

  •  Working out too long

According to a research done by the University of Copenhage, a person who works out for 30 minutes a day will lose 40% more fat than someone who works out for a longer period. Shocked? Don’t be, this is because the longer you work out, your body will resort to using your muscles to fuel your workout. Remember fat is the fuel use to keep the muscles in the body active hence, the less muscle in the body the less fat you will burn at the end of your work out. In addition, the body reads exercise as a stressor, therefore when the body is stressed it will produces cortisol. Elevated cortisol due to long periods of exercise may lead to an increase in blood sugar levels, retention of fat around the mid-section and slowing down of the immune system.  In essence it’s best to do short high intervals work out for a maximum of 45 minutes a day. 

  • Not taking rest day(s)

Working out six to seven days a week does not give the body adequate time to rest. Rest plays a very crucial part in muscle recovery. Remember when you are working out you are not building muscles but rather tearing them down. This means that the body will need  time to heal and rejuvenate for your next work out. Another important part of resting the body is getting adequate sleep. Ever noticed after a good night’s rest, how flat your tummy looks? This is because during sleep your body produces hormones that burn fat.  According to a research published by Annals of Internal Medicine, getting less than seven hours of sleep can undo the benefits of dieting. As outlined in the study; 50% of weight loss by dieters who got adequate sleep were fat, while dieters who cut back on sleep loss less fat. The study even further explained that dieters who did not get adequate sleep were hungrier; they were also less satisfied after meals and lack energy to exercise. In summary working out 3-4 times per week and getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night should do the trick.

  • Starvation diets

Not eating enough food to provide the body with sufficient energy will put the body under stress and by extension slows down your metabolism.  This action also sends the body into survival mode, this means it will hold on to the existing fat and slows down the process of burning it so you won’t lose energy. It does this to prevent itself from starving and also providing energy to operate the vital organs. This very same reaction can take place when you restrict yourself from eating certain food; hence letting the body becomes deficient in certain nutrients. As stated by a dietitian who works at the Western Regional Health Authority, “No food is bad”. Just make sure you are eating in moderation while focusing on eating healthier, which is eating more natural foods. If you eat healthy 80% of  the time you will only need to work out 20% of the time. This means that what you put in the body is four times more important than any work out.

  • Not drinking enough water

Did you know that often times when you feel hungry you are actually thirsty? Drinking water is one of the easiest things you will ever do to lose weight. Drinking water aids in digestion of food, the proper functions of organs and also makes you feel full so you will eat less. Not drinking enough water can slow down your metabolism and hence reduces the burning process. There are countless reasons why drinking enough water is a vital part of any weight loss program, but more so it’s very important in the body’s daily function. Remember water is life.

  • Not doing exercise you love

Ever heard the saying, will power is a diminishing resource? All of us at some time in our life have set out to accomplish some dreams, but over time that level of will and determination fades in the distant. One factor that could combat such a thing when trying to lose weight is doing physical activities that you love. Dancing, Kickboxing, Running whatever that is convenient and not burdensome for you to do.
Most importantly it is vital to listening to your body, do not over-exercise, over-eat or vice versa, but rather do everything in moderation. Once you practice these five steps listed above you will realize that losing weight is not so difficult and burdensome after all. 

 Do you currently find it hard to lose weight? Leave your comments and share your experiences.