Tips From Public Health Experts: How Safe is Your Kitchen?

By Charlotte Bumstead

Canadians are fortunate to have one of the world’s best food safety systems, but the number of people contracting foodborne illness each year is still at a whopping 11 to 13 million. The risks go beyond cautious selection from the shelves of your local grocery store. Many of the dangers exist in the vicinity of your own kitchen, where you assume responsibility for safeguarding what you eat. With the help of an unrestricted grant from Maple Leaf Foods Inc., the Canadian Public Health Association has released the website Eat Safe!, offering educational advice and guidance to aid Canadians in minimizing personal vulnerability to food sickness.

Although the information offered is relevant to any individual, the web resource specifically targets high-risk populations, including seniors, people living with HIV-AIDS, people undergoing cancer treatment and pregnant women. “Vulnerable populations and their caregivers have a particular need for relevant information on food safety that is easily accessible,” said Maple Leaf Foods chief food safety officer Dr. Randall Huffman. “Our partnership with CPHA and the development of the Eat Safe! website provided an excellent opportunity to support our education and outreach initiative and help deliver important information to higher-risk Canadians on proper food safety practices.”

As we age, there is a growing requirement to focus on the safety of the food we eat. This is due to a combination of causes, such as a weakened immune system, a decreased production of stomach acid and an escalated risk for sicknesses that can lead to severe or fatal effects. In response to these threats, the online guide offers practical advice for choosing, storing and preparing your meals to avoid afflicting bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Symptoms of foodborne illness, also known as “food poisoning,” can begin only a few hours or up to a few days subsequent to eating contaminated food. Depending on what type of germs and how many have infected the food, symptoms can include any or all of the following: stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or headache and fever. Though the sickness is usually only short term, threats to seniors can be severe, even deadly. It is especially dangerous to those suffering from longer term health issues like kidney failure or anaemia.

“The food industry and all levels of government have primary responsibility to deliver food that is safe, but consumers are an important link in that chain,” said CPHA board member Dr. Lynn McIntyre. “With more than 74.9% of Canadians online today, people are more likely to turn to a computer search engine to find information, and we’re proud to deliver rich, relevant food safety information through the Eat Safe! website.”