April 7 marks World Health Day, and for this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) commemorates this day by urging governments, the food industry, and consumers to observe food safety. The slogan, “from farm to plate, make food safe,” aims to promote proper ways of preparing food not just in the kitchens, but even from the primary food producers such as farms, manufacturers, and traders.
According to the WHO, unsafe food preparations are often attributed to more than 200 diseases that affect children and elderly people. The Western Pacific Region, in particular, has been hit the most with such diseases over the last decade – one such occurrence happened in 2008, wherein approximately 51,900 infants in China were exposed to baby formula that was contaminated with melamine.
Making Food Safe
The WHO reminds the general public to observe the following when preparing food:
Keep Clean – this means maintaining the premises where food preparation is done as spotless as possible; the same goes for the equipment used. Washing hands before and in between handling food as well as after using the bathroom are also good practices.
Proper Separation – segregating and proper storing of raw from cooked food is essential to mitigate contamination, as raw food may contain harmful bacteria. Separating utensils and equipment that were used to handle raw food also aids in limiting the chances of infecting cooked food.
Storing Food Correctly – it is important not to leave cooked food at room temperature for more than two hours, as harmful bacteria can start propagating within them. While refrigerating cooked and perishable goods is a sound idea, storing them in the fridge too long is not advisable since waterborne bacteria can seep into the meat, effectively spoiling it; thawing frozen food at room temperature is also not advisable.
Getting Diagnosed – the RxBox
In the Philippines, far-flung areas might not be optimally equipped to observe such food safety practices. Such areas run the risk of contracting various illnesses that often result from inadequate preparation of food. As such, proper preliminary diagnosis and monitoring of certain symptoms of patients in these areas often prove to be a problem.
To address this issue, The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Department of Health (DOH) has created the RxBox, a telemedicine device that can capture medical signals through built-in sensors that can help determine physiologic signals ranging from a person’s blood pressure, electrocardiogram (ECG), and temperature to diagnose and monitor patients’ health within the rural facilities. Apart from diagnosing patients, the RxBox also creates and stores the patient’s medical records within the Community Health Information Tracking System (CHITS) and transmits the information via the Internet to a medical specialist from the Philippine General Hospital for their expert advice, which is also known as teleconsultations. This way, patients in these areas can receive the correct treatment for their ailments from the corresponding health workers.
The Department of Science and Technology, together with the Department of Health and the Information and Communications Technology Office, recognizes the importance of looking after one’s health and well-being. This can be done by providing and disseminating relevant information from credible sources, such as the WHO, to the public. By practicing proper food preparation and storage, families can live healthier lives.