Is the food you eat safe?
08 March 2017
How do you know? Do you consider where is comes from or how it is produced, and I don’t mean in a kitchen or restaurant but the actual farm, field or patch of water?
Your fresh fruit and vegetables, how do you know that the soil they are grown in and the water used are free from contaminants, caused by pesticides and fertilisers? It’s difficult. One way is to make sure you buy from a reputable supplier who knows how the produce has been grown and harvested, another is to make sure that you wash the item before use, especially items that you are going to eat unpeeled or uncooked such as tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, peppers, fruit etc. Wash or scrub them with clean water, even better use a special fruit and vegetable sanitiser.
Water quality is also important for the fish, as you do not want to eat ones that have been living in sewage, washed down at the fish market with dirty water or kept in dirty contaminated ice, so be aware when you are shopping and look for items that look and smell fresh, and ignore those which have attracted flies.
No one would knowingly eat or give their children steroids or growth hormones, yet these are commonly injected into meat and poultry by some food producers and with the lack of import regulations in the Maldives, a lot of these can end up in supermarkets, hotel and restaurants, cafe or resort kitchens, ready for you to eat.
As most of the food in the Maldives is imported, a high percentage of it has been processed in some way to prolong their ‘sell by date’ but be warned, these additives and preservatives are often carcinogenic, ie cancerous. Cancer causing substances can also be found in food colourings and flavourings, for instance did you know some food colourings commonly used in sweets such as Haribo, are derived from Petrol!
So how do you know if your food is safe to eat?
Firstly, make sure you know where it has come from and how it has been caught, made or produced, not always easy if you are buying from a supermarket, so get into the habit of reading the labels as well. As a general rule, the longer the ingredient list is on the product the unhealthier it is. Try and avoid items which have added nitrites’ or nitrates’, added sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine and toxic additives such as high fructose corn syrup.
Secondly, make sure the supermarket or supplier is reputable and has good processes in place to make sure what they are importing is good quality and that they are storing it properly and at the correct temperatures. Beware, anything kept in normal Maldivian room temperature for long periods of time should be avoided as there could be mould, spoilage bacteria, or small insects inside.
Thirdly, check the packet, tin or container isn’t damaged and that the sell by, use by or best before date hasn’t been exceeded.
All of this is much harder if you are eating in restaurants, hotels or resorts as you have to rely on the Chef and Purchasing Manager and hope they have bought from regulated, reputable suppliers and not just the cheapest company possible.
In all regulated countries, having confidence that your food is safe to eat is much easier as all food related businesses must have a food safety system in place which follows the internationally recognised ‘Codex’ seven principles of HACCP system. Business owners / managers are responsible for the food hygiene and safety within their premises and should ensure all employees are educated, trained and supervised adequately to make sure the food they produce or supply is of good quality and safe to eat. In the Maldives this type of stringent legislation is not in place as yet, although the FDA and HPA are introducing a rating system and do stipulate that all food handlers should be trained. FHC Maldives offers a variety of training courses for food businesses so contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further information
Do not buy or use cans that bulge or are blown out as it indicates a reaction has occurred inside the can which has produced harmful bacteria and gasses. Dented cans should also be treated with caution, especially if dented at the top, bottom or by the seam as this is where the can is weakest so air or bacteria could be present.
A ‘use by’ or ‘expires by’ date is a health warning. Food should not be consumed after this date. It is an offence to sell food that is past its use by or expiry date. Always check dates before you buy.