Jamaica Health Tips Blog
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?
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?
It’s great to see many Jamaicans adding more fruits
and vegetables to their diet nowadays, but eating healthy is not the only thing
we should focus on. When purchasing our fruits and vegetable we tend to shy
away from the ones that have been bitten by insects or that have insect parts
on them, but are we really equipped with the correct information to identify
good quality fruits and vegetables in the market place? Generally, these foods ought
to be consumed when they are fit and not to be offered for sale in an over ripe,
rotten, parasitic or poisonous condition.
Over ripe fruit is known to cause diarrhoea and other complications. Here are things to look out for when
purchasing these produce in the market place;
Eating healthy is good but never neglect safety in the process. Remember your health is your responsibility so shop smart and responsible.
Do you inspect your vegetables and fruits before you buy them?
Have you ever purchased an item in a food handling
establishment, but only to realize later that the product is expired? As Jamaicans we need to pay more attention to what we are purchasing and bringing
home to our families. In order for us to be informed consumers, we need to read
our labels more often.
A label is a tag or other descriptions matter
printed, embossed, impressed or attached to the container of a product. This helps to advertise the product and most importantly gives the consumer
information about the product, necessary to make the best buy. Against that
back, this means that it is crucial for a label to be accurate and reflects the
true nature of the product.
A label consists of two main areas;
main Panel/ principal display panel
The main panel should contain the;
of the product
- net weight of the product
The information panel should contain the;
and address of processor, manufacture, packer, importer or distributor.
date/best before date
statement (warning etc. about the product.)
information presented must be in English
In Jamaica the two entities that determine what
information is presented on a label are the manufacturer and the Bureau of
Standard Jamaica. With that said it is critical to note that no product should
be purchased without a label, most importantly bulk chemicals and detergents.
DO YOU READ THE LABEL WHEN PURCHASING ITEMS? LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW.
As defined in the Collins English Dictionary, 1819 a fruit
juice is a beverage made from liquid squeezed from a fruit or fruits. With that
said, can we legally call juice from concentrate 100% fruit juice? This seems
to be the new way of advertising fruit juices blended with other ingredients,
such as high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, additives and coloring.
Many may argue that fruit juice made from concentrate is juice adding back the
water that was removed in the evaporation process. Yes, but evaporation which
is heating the juice to high temperature will destroy certain nutrients and
enzymes in the natural fruit. In addition, juice from concentrate would also
have most of its water removed through filtration and extraction. Extraction
involves adding some chemicals to get a more condensed product.
the Dictionary of Food Science and Technology, Juice from concentrate is also
pasteurized as part of the process to extend its shelf life. As a general rule,
the more processing a food undergoes, the more potential there is for nutrient
loss. On the contrary, according to the Complete Book of Food count, the differences
are not great. One cup of 100% orange juice from concentrate, for example
contains 100 milligram and 40 micro-gram of beta-carotene, compare to 125
milligram of vitamin c and 80 micro-gram of beta-carotene in fresh squeezed
The writer will not dismiss the fact that 100% juice from
concentrate with no sugar added is healthier than juice made from concentrate
with sugar added, however it’s in my opinion that juice from concentrate should
not be advertise as 100% natural fruit juice. As consumers we need to take charge in the market place,
read labels since it is the only thing that will provide us with information
needed to guide us in making a wise and informed choice. Please share your views and knowledge on this
Do you drink a lot of juices that are made from concentrate?
Fish, when freshly caught, is relatively
wholesome. The quality of the fish
starts to deteriorate as soon as it is taken from the water. The principal cause of fish condemnation is
decay. Factors influencing the rapid
spoilage of fish are:
- Microbial – several species of
microbes are always present in the surface slime and intestinal tract of
the healthy fish. As long as the
fish remains alive, these are held in check and the flesh of the healthy
fish remains sterile. However, as
soon as the fish dies, these reproduce rapidly and attack all the
constituents of the tissues. Since these
organisms live on the cold-blooded vertebrate at low ocean temperatures,
they are able to resist ordinary refrigeration temperatures. If microbial decomposition must be
retarded, fish, upon being caught, should be immediately stored at
temperatures below 0ºC.
- Physiological – due to the fight
and consequent exertion when caught, glycogen in the muscles is depleted
or nearly so. There is therefore
little glycogen to convert into lactic acid in slowing bacterial growth in
muscles is limited.
- Chemical – besides bacteria,
enzymes act upon certain constituents of the fish, breaking it down into
simpler substances. This is called
self-digestion or autolysis. The
growth and activities of certain bacteria on the surface of the fish
produces undesirable chemical substances called trimethylamine which is
responsible for the fishy odor of spoilt fish. This chemical then diffuses into the
flesh of the fish causing spoilage.
Characteristics of Good Wet Fish
Characteristics of Stale Wet Fish
- Clear, bright, slightly protruding eyes with black pupils.
- Gills are bright red in color, odorless and usually closed.
- Moderate amount of natural slime covering fish, skin shiny and
color unfaded, scales are strongly adherent, creamy white or transparent
- Flesh is firm to the touch, solid, opaque, elastic and strongly
attached to backbone.
- Abdomen clean and free from offensive odor. Belly walls are firm with no
- Blood along the backbone in the visceral cavity is bright red.
- Pleasant odor (briny)
- Body stiff and tail rigid.
- The carcass will sink in water.
- Dull, sunken grey eyes which will disappear in extremely rotten
- Gills are of very pale pink or dark brown color, slimy and have
- Natural slime is yellowish and has a bad odor, dull appearance,
many missing scales as they are easily detached from the skin.
- Flesh is soft and limp, transparent and pits easily on pressure
and can be easily loosened from backbone.
- Abdomen discolored with offensive odor, belly wall soft and
- Blood along backbone is dark to black in color, with foul odor.
- Strong rank odor, progressing into a putrid, rotten fish odor.
- Body limp and pliable.
- The carcass will float in water.
of Fresh Fish
1. Minimum handling – the less handling
fish receives, the longer it will remain wholesome and the less likelihood of it
causing fish poisoning.
2. Fresh fish should be buried in ice
that is relatively finely ground or shaven.
3. It is poor practice to allow fish
fillet, sliced fish or fish with flesh exposed to come in direct contact with
water or ice as this will spoil the flavour and appearance and result in a
soggy unpalatable product.
4. Refrigeration is necessary at all
times to keep down bacterial action and autolysis.
Smoked Fish (Herring)
1. Flesh should be firm, dry and free
2. Flesh should have fresh, clean,
1. Flesh is sweaty, soft and slimy.
2. Flesh is moldy and has bad odor.
1. Flesh should be firm, clear in colour, fairly dry on
surface, neatly trimmed.
2. Always stored in dry cool place.
3. Free of insect pests and dirt. Bad Fish
- Flesh is discolored, (pink fungus growth).
- Wet and moist saltfish not properly stored.
- May be infested with Lasioderma or other pests.
1. Fish should be covered with clean liquor.
2.Odor should be pleasant, pickle odor.
3. Fish should be firm and free from bloodstained and broken
- Fish only partially covered or covered with muddy liquor.
- Foul or rancid odor
- Fish is bloodstained, discolored and broken into pieces.
The outside should be clean and
free from dirt, with shells tightly closed.
When a handful is rubbed
together, they will sound like pebbles.
They will sink in water and has
a pleasant odor.
If the pH of the liquor is
tested, it will be between 6 and 7.
The liquor appears milky
especially during the spawning season (spring).
Shell not closed.
When shaken, does not have a
pebble like sound.
Unpleasant odor, excessive dirt
PH of the liquor more acidic
and has an opaque appearance.
has a black or dark ring in the
inside of the shell
Floats in water.
Oysters removed from shell should be stored
in sterile containers and if being kept for over 4 days, should be stored at
30ºF or below.
Source: Marcia Reid
(lecturer at University of Technology, Jamaica. Lecture notes.)
Are you buying safe fish? leave a comment below.
Well it’s just 3 days away before Christmas and Jamaicans are preparing for wonderful large cooked meals. Most Jamaicans do not realize that the food they consume during Christmas is usually high in fat and calories, but taking a closer look has revealed that there can be some hidden health benefits too.
Very few Jamaicans eat turkey as their main dish during Christmas, but some studies show that Turkey contains high levels of protein but without the large quantities of saturated fat found in some red meat, it also has lower cholesterol levels than pork, chicken or beef.
It has been said that some Jamaican vegetables like cabbage, may help reduce the risk of some cancers, as they contain high levels of antioxidants. And Christmas in Jamaica is not complete without dark chocolate, which is a good source of magnesium and contains a variety of bio-active compounds believed to lead to good cardiovascular health and prevent joint problems.
However chocolate is a high-calorie food and should be eaten in small moderation. leave a comment below.
What healthy foods are you planning to eat this Christmas?
leave a comment below.
Eggs are one of the most
economical and nutritious food known to man. It is important to however, not to
mismanage eggs during the time of production through to consumption. This is because mismanagement may compromise
the safety and the quality of the egg and consequently facilitates the growth
of microorganisms which can have deleterious effect on the health of the
Eggs have been classified
by many including the Food and Drug administration as being a potentially
hazardous food. This is because it has being implicated in numerous foodborne
disease outbreaks such as Salmonellosis. (FDA, 2001) According to the Ministry of Agriculture and
Fisheries, (2011), it is estimated that the average yearly production
of eggs in Jamaica is at 120,977,659. Consequently there are approximately
16,200 unmonitored small egg farms contributing to the yearly production of
eggs in the island, (Williams, 2004). This is of major public health concern because
some eggs which you consume could be contaminated with deadly microorganisms
that may result in loss of life.
Most commercially produced eggs reach
supermarkets within a few days of leaving the egg farm. If the market and the
buyer handle them properly, they will still be fresh when they reach the
table. As an egg ages, the egg white
becomes thinner and the yolk becomes flatter.
also called meat spots, occasionally found on an egg yolk. Contrary to popular
opinion, these tiny spots do not indicate a fertilized egg. Rather, they are
caused by the rupture of a blood vessel on the yolk surface during formation of
the egg or by a similar accident in the wall of the oviduct. Less than 1% of
all eggs produced have blood spots. As an egg ages, the yolk takes up water
from the albumen to dilute the blood spot so, in actuality, a blood spot
indicates that the egg is fresh. Both chemically and nutritionally, these eggs
are fit to eat. The spot can be removed with the tip of a knife, if you wish.
Table 1 : Showing the quality of egg from very fresh (left) to stale (right).
How are eggs handled safely?
Proper refrigeration, cooking, and handling should prevent most egg-safety
problems. Persons can enjoy eggs and dishes containing eggs if these safe
handling guidelines are followed:
utensils, equipment, and work areas with hot, soapy water before and after
contact with eggs
keep eggs out of the refrigerator more than 2 hours.
eggs and other ingredients, combined according to recipe directions, should be
cooked immediately or refrigerated and cooked within 24 hours.
cook eggs until both the white and yolk are firm.
and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to a safe minimum internal
temperature of 160 °F. use a food thermometer to be sure.
cooked eggs and dishes containing eggs immediately after cooking, or place in
shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerate at once for later use. Use
within 3 to 4 days.
Source : Marcia Reid (lecturer) @ University of Technology, Jamaica.
Genetically Modified Foods
These are foods, in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. From prehistoric time plants and animals have been involved in selective breeding. Scientists first discovered that DNA can transfer between organisms in 1946. The first genetically modified plant was produced in 1983, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant.
In 1994, the transgenic Flavr Savr tomato was approved by the FDA for marketing in the US - the modification allowed the tomato to delay ripening after picking.
Advantages Genetically Modified Foods
• Genetically modified food technology can develop crops with higher yield, with less fertilizer, less pesticides, and more nutrients.
• Decrease of maturation time of the plants, so they can be harvested sooner, stay riper longer and more often during the year.
• Foods are more resistant and stay ripe for a longer period of time.
• Reduction in food-borne illnesses e.g. Foods causing allergic reactions.
• Developments of new kinds of crops that can be grown at extreme climates.
• As more crops can be grown and at more places, this decreases global warming through the increase of oxygen in the environment and the decrease of carbon dioxide.
• Enhancement of the size of food.
• Less labor requirements.
• Less factory additives needed.
• Scientific development of agriculture, health and related sciences due to the better understanding of the products. E.g. the development of new medicines.
Disadvantages Genetically Modified Foods
• Harm to other organisms. E.g. genes and their effect included in a crop may turn out to be poisonous to insects (monarch butterfly poisoned by Genetically Modified Foods corns).
• Scientists can choose which genes to manipulate, but they don't yet know where in the DNA to precisely insert these genes and they have no way of controlling gene expression.
Genes don't work in isolation, changing a few could change the whole picture, with unpredictable results.
• Genetically modified crops cross-pollinate with nearby non-genetically modified foods plants and could create ecological problems.
• Genetically Modified Foods technology companies patent their crops and also engineer crops so that harvested grain germs are incapable of developing.
• Since the production of engineered food involves infusing animal genes in the crops and tampering with nature, it might not be good for consumption in the long run.
• Genetically engineered food would increase the dependency of developing countries, on industrialized nations. This would result in a dominance of the world food production by a few countries. New advances may be skewed to the interests of rich countries.
• The biggest disadvantage of genetically modified food is that they have harmful effects. on the human body. The consumption of these genetically engineered foods can lead to development of diseases that are immune to antibiotics.
• Possible creation of new kinds of weapons; genetic food and beverage weapons.
• Herbicide-resistant and pesticide-resistant crops could give rise to super-weeds and super-pests that would need newer, stronger chemicals to destroy them.
The advantages and disadvantages of genetically modified foods are numerous and is strongly dependent on the consumers’ preference and the developers’ motive. All genetically modified foods should be labelled by law, however according to many articles reviewed most popular brand fail to label their products genetically modified.
Do you support companies that produce Genetically Modified Food?
leave a comment below and share your views