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Take care if food doesn't look fresh; bacteria may thrive there

Consumers have observed that street food vendors are displaying cooked food they didn't sell the previous day, despite it having seen high temperatures throughout the whole day.

Head of the Food and Drug Division at the Vientiane Health Department, Dr Somchine Singtharaj, said this is not a good practice because if food is kept unrefrigerated for a long time, harmful bacteria can thrive and cause illness in an unwary consumer.

In general, soup dishes should be eaten within one day after being cooked but should be stored in a fridge. They should be stored at a temperature of below 5 degrees Celsius or kept hot at over 60C.

Fried dried food must be eaten within two days and must be kept at a suitable temperature.

--Photo the Centre of Information and Education for Health

Dried food such as fried meat and other items must be consumed within not more than two days. “After that time it can be considered a health risk,” said Dr Somchine.

The Vientiane Health Department has assigned health offices in the capital's nine districts to monitor the situation and explain the issue to street food vendors to ensure they sell only freshly cooked food.

In addition, medical staff from the department also regularly monitor food quality in hotels and restaurants to make sure vendors produce safe food for consumers. Farmers are also advised to reduce the amount of chemicals they use on their vegetables if they are not using organic fertiliser.

One of the simplest actions you can take to prevent the harmful effects of bacteria is to keep everything clean.

Start by cleaning your hands, then clean surfaces, utensils and cutting boards. Wash fruits and vegetables before you start cutting or peeling.

The next step is to separate. Separate raw produce from raw meat, fish, eggs and poultry. Cook all food thoroughly, using a food thermometer if necessary. Lastly, since bacteria can grow in many foods within two hours of being cooked, refrigerate food as soon as possible. In addition, water and other items used must be clean and safe.

The World Health Organisation estimates that foodborne and waterborne dysenteric diseases together kill about 2.2 million people each year.

Food can transmit disease from person to person as well as serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

In developed countries there are intricate standards for food preparation, whereas in lesser developed countries the main issue is simply the availability of adequate safe water, which is usually a critical item. In theory, food poisoning is 100 percent preventable.

People who suffer with health problems after eating food at hotels, restaurants or street food stalls can contact hotline number 1510 at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The ministry will then directly send a message about the incident to the Ministry of Health requesting that they follow up the complaint and investigate the offending food outlet.

Vendors operating in an unhygienic environment should be avoided and reported to the Vientiane Health Department on 021 214240 or 021 223272.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update August 26, 2017)

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