Microbial contamination of food is an important food safety problem, in which the consumer has an important role to play. Microorganisms are present in the human organism, in animals, in the environment and in food: some are to be considered useful (for example, they collaborate in digestive processes and are used in the preparation of foods such as cheese, yogurt, etc.), others are harmful to human health.
Adopting a series of correct behaviors in everyday life allows us to reduce the risk of contracting diseases caused by these microorganisms. The three fundamental moments in which the consumer can reduce the risk of microbial contamination are the time of purchase, preparation and storage of food.
Food Risk Factors
In the mass media, a lot of emphasis is given to the risks related to unwanted chemicals present in food, which concern the consumer perhaps because they are partly out of his control.
The biggest risks are actually related to microbiological contamination of food, which instead often depend precisely on the consumer. In general, the best tool in the hands of the consumer to reduce the risks associated with the presence of foreign substances in the diet is to vary one’s diet and to consume abundant fruits and vegetables, well washed, which are rich in protective substances.
Choice and purchase of food
In general, the cleanliness and order of the store can also indicate the seller’s attention to the quality of the product sold. It is necessary to specifically check the labels, which must clearly show the expiry date of the packaged products.
The packages must not be wet, covered with frost or crushed. After the purchase, the consumer must transport the frozen foods in a thermal container. It is advisable to buy them last, thus reducing the interruption times of the “cold chain” to a minimum.
The most perishable products (milk, yogurt, puddings), including loose ones, must be kept at temperatures equal to or lower than + 4 ° C.
The same goes for frozen foods, which must be kept in appliances that constantly guarantee a temperature of -18 ° C or lower. Often the presence of dangerous microorganisms is not evident: in fact, contaminated foods can maintain their usual characteristics of color, smell and taste. Looking good is not a guarantee of healthy food.
It is therefore useless and even dangerous to taste a product if it is suspected that it may be deteriorated. However, it is true that a rancid taste or a bad smell are undisputed indicators of unhealthy food. Particular care is appropriate in purchasing fish. It is very important that it is presented in a refrigerated counter (better if exposed on an ice bed) and freshness is judged by the delicate (sea) smell, the protruding eye, the rosy or red gills.
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