Death in food [Archives:2005/895/Health]

November 17 2005

Need for food increased directly as a result of population increase. Rates of Famines and deaths also increased due to dearth in food. As all international and cultural awareness efforts of birth control proved failure, an alternative plan of obtaining food was thought of. Agriculture was given top priority.

Some countries managed to provide their need for food by storing their surplus. It is an old habit that man used to store the surplus for dearth times. Natural methods like salting and drying were adopted. Recently canning was discovered. It is a process of keeping food in sealed containers after sterilizing it. Canning was first used in 1709 when Napoleon Bonaparte asked the famous French baker Neoklezbert to find a method of preserving the food that he would send to his troops.

Preserved food whether be it canned, frozen or salted have a limited expiry period. People should know that the end of the expiry date is followed by a reaction between the package, its contents and the preserving substances. This decreases the value of food stuffs or spoils them. This necessitates certain conditions for keeping food stuffs.

Expiry date

The manufacture and expiry dates are often written on food products. Consumers should be aware that if the expiry date is 15-30 days, the food stuff will start to loose its value. The validity of expiry requires ideal storing conditions according to the food product.

Data of preserved product

Contents of the product and the percentage of the preserving stuffs should be written. Any product that ignores these data is doubted to be cheated.

A question that arises is the impact of preserved food on humans. What are the effects of the food stuffs that fill the markets on our health?

It is an advantage that large amounts of food stuffs are kept for a long time, so that they will be easily purchased at the times when they are needed. An example of that is when there is abundance in potato production, which exceededs consumption and export needs. Preserve operations could be made to keep it for future human use. It is not enough to put the product in packages. Appropriate storing conditions should be followed in storing the stuff.

Disadvantages of preserved food are:

1- Commercial and industrial cheating

2- Cheating the perseverant.

3- Inconsistency of the package with the preserved stuff.

4- Lack of ideal storing conditions.

Al these advantages affect human health and there are many incidents of food poisoning that are attributed to preserved foods.

Globalization of unnatural food

Natural and climatic conditions sometimes force some countries to import food products that are either frozen or preserved. Specifications and standards should be catered for in such conditions. Awareness is to be promoted among consumers in order to make the right choice for their food stuffs.

Role of food laboratories and food surveillance laboratories

The role of the food laboratories is vital. They should not be confined to one area. Laboratories should have facilities for research and testing of canned food in every governorate. These should be affiliated to the central surveillance. They should also be present in all Country air, Sea, and land ports. They should also observe locally processed food. Their work should be continuous and not only to respond when there are complaints. The food surveillance centers are to watch the standards and constituents of local and imported stuffs. Food surveillance laboratories are responsible for follow up and protection of consumers, and for periodical surveillance.

Some could ask what periodical surveillance is. Periodical follow up of the states' ports and the standards specification. It could mean the re- testing of the commodities that are in the markets even if their expiry is valid.

A question poses itself of whether the locally produced food stuffs are being tested before they go to the markets, or whether that is left to be done by their own laboratories? It is well known that the products are not produced all at one time. Are the tested samples taken from one group or are there periodical tests?

How can consumer be protected?

A number of societies have been established for protecting consumers, but their role is quite limited. The main responsibility of protection is to be undertaken by the government. This could be achieved by the following procedures:

1- To establish observation committees for field surveillance and check of canned food stuffs. They should confiscate the expired and illegal ones. They should also take samples of the stuffs for testing them.

2- To form surveillance bodies which constitute:

a- Surveillances laboratories

b- Centers for food stuff observations

3- Applying the expiry period, by shortening this period. An example of this is the tomato paste which is known to be three years. This is to be reduced to two according to the climatic conditions.

4- Activation of consumer laws and legislations that protect consumers.

5- To fight smuggling by raising the awareness on the bad effects of smuggled commodities.

6- Consumers should be aware of watching the data and validity of the products for the good of his own health. This is best achieved by using the natural food. If this is impossible they should be careful that they should not use smuggled, expired or those which are without data.

In spite of all the above mentioned there remains the need for canned food. There are now secured methods for preserving food that will make certain kinds of food available all the year round.

Packages and advertisements of food stuffs are quite attractive, but what are they really hiding behind their attractive appearances and what impacts have they got on our health?

It is obvious that we should be careful.