By Mrinal Pandit, Chief Dietician, NephroPlus
A balanced diet should compromises of 5-6 serving of vegetables and fruits, as they form the base of a healthy diet. They contribute to the maximum amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibers as per recommended dietary allowance. Unfortunately, they are the biggest host for pathogens and lead to food borne illness. Monsoon with the pleasant weather also brings along unwanted pathogen and bacteria, which may lead to food poisoning. These pathogens cannot be seen by the naked eyes, but can affect the digestive system and health. The contamination can occur after the produce has been purchased, during food preparation, or through inadequate storage. Foodborne illness can sometimes be confused with other illnesses that have similar symptoms. The symptoms of foodborne illness can include:
• Vomiting, diarrheoa, and abdominal pain
• Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body ache
Some people are at greater risk for getting sick – older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. There are thing that we can do to minimize the risk and keep food safe for consumption. It can prevent food borne illness and substantially reduce your exposure to pesticides too.
• Screen the fruit and vegetable before buying. Choose the produce without any bruises, damaged part or any infestation by birds or animals.
• If choosing for pre-cut vegetables and fruits, check whether the product is properly packed and refrigerated at the right temperature. Avoid if the packed product is puffed or you see fluid collected in the packing, it may be on the verge of being spoiled. Better to get it off your cart.
• Wash hand 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling raw produce.
• Clean the cutting board, Knives and utensils before and after preparing vegetables and fruits.
• Clean the produce by gently rubbing the produce while holding under plain running water to clear external
impurities. A study conducted at Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found that washing produce with running water for at least thirty seconds reduced the amount of pesticide residue for 9 of the 12 tested pesticides.
• Do no use soap or bleach for cleaning the produce, as these products are not intended for consumption. A study has show that they do not enhance the removal of pesticide residues from produce as like rinsing with tap water alone.
• Rinse produce before you peel it, so that dirt and bacteria clung to the skin are not transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
• Separate the portion, if any affected area. If in Doubt, discard the product.
• Towel dry the produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
• Perishable produce should be refrigerated at or below 5 degrees Celsius to avoid growth of bacteria.
Be careful while choosing the right type of food and the food sources. It is better to avoid raw uncooked foods, cooking helps minimize the chances of infestation. Maintain good hygiene techniques while handling food at home. Foods are no longer safe to eat when they have been in the danger zone between 4-60 °C for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature was above 90 °F).
Choose gourd vegetables like Tinda, Ivy Gourd, Bottle gourd, red pumpkin, etc. instead of leafy vegetable as dampness, dirt and mud present in the leaves make these veggies susceptible to many germs, leading to different stomach infections
Avoid roadside cut fruits and fresh juices, as raw fruits and vegetables are more susceptible for germ contamination. In addition, you are not sure if the water used for making juices is safe for drinking. Avoid Seafood, as monsoon is the breeding season for fish and fishing is banned for 61 days by the government. So the chances of getting a fresh produce is less. The stale seafood can be a host for unwanted pathogens.