Handle food well to prevent illness this holiday season—FDA

With Christmas and New Year parties just around the corner, health authorities on Tuesday issued 16 food safety tips for the holiday season.

The Food and Drug Administration said the tips aim to help people avoid becoming ill due to contaminated food.

"During the holiday rush, consumers must always remember to be very careful in the selection, purchase, preparation, handling and storage of food," acting FDA director Kenneth Hartigan-Go said in Health Advisory 2012-015.

The advisory dated Nov. 12 was posted on the FDA website only on Tuesday.

He said symptoms of foodborne illnesses usually include vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms, which could manifest a few hours or days after consuming contaminated food.

Severe symptoms include hepatitis A, gastroenteritis, cholera, typhoid fever, amoebiasis, and food poisoning.

Food safety tips

When buying and preparing food, FDA advises the following, as posted in their advisory:

1. Buy from reputable food sources.

2. Check the physical condition of the product. Canned goods should not be dented, bulging, or deformed.

3. Read food labels, including ingredients and allergens declaration. Avoid foods if you are sensitive or concerned about certain food ingredients.

4. Check open date marking (expiry, 'consume before' or 'best before' date) for perishable products.

5. Double-check on Holiday Promo items, including "Buy 1 Take 1" and "Freebies," which should still be within the safety guarantee period.

6. Avoid unlabeled repacked food said to be the same as or made by the manufacturers of known food products. These must bear the proper label information and prepared in a hygienic facility and manner.

7. Buy fruits and vegetables that are fresh. Wash them thoroughly with running water before cooking or eating.

8. Wash your hands thoroughly before, during and after food preparation, after using the toilet, and as often as necessary.

9. Prepare food only in clean work area using clean containers, utensils, cutting boards and sponges.

10. Before buying street food, check if it was prepared, cooked, and handled in a hygienic manner.

11. Cook food at the proper temperature.

12. Keep food out of the danger zone temperature range (5 to 60 degrees Celsius) for more than two hours. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

13. Keep food covered to prevent insects from coming in.

14. Refrigerate and/or properly store leftovers promptly.

15. Immediately discard spoiled and suspected spoiled food. Reheating or recooking these will not help.

16. Eat and drink alcohol moderately.

–KG, GMA News

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