Whether you are a housewife who runs a home or a restaurant manager who supervises a huge eating establishment, you need to be concerned about how to protect food from pests. Pests are sneaky little beasts and they can contaminate food in so many ways. Tainted food should not be eaten as this could lead to food poisoning and other diseases, such as gastroenteritis and dysentery, to name a few.
There are basically three ways that food can get contaminated, and these are – physical, chemical and biological contamination. Physical contamination is what happens when food is tainted with foreign objects, such as glass pieces, hair, small bits of plastic, paper or metal, or other items that should not be in food. As for chemical contamination, this pertains to instances when food gets ruined because it came in contact with harmful substances that were accidentally spilled or dropped in it.
Examples of chemical contaminants are detergent or cleaning products, and pesticides and other more dangerous toxic elements. Then, there’s biological contamination, which refers to instances when food becomes spoiled because of the introduction of disease-causing organisms. Insects are common vectors of pathogenic microorganisms. Humans also infect food when they fail to practice proper food handling, or when they accidentally sneeze or cough on food.
Insects and How They Contaminate Food
Insects and other common pests, including mice and rats, can easily contaminate food in many ways. They can crawl on food, which then spreads the bacteria, viruses or parasites that are found on their bodies. Sometimes, a creature can also take a bite of, say, bread, and it then leaves saliva on the item. The microorganisms in the insect’s saliva can be transferred to the individual who ate the food. The ingested organisms can then multiply in the person’s body and cause an illness. Aside from saliva, animals can also contaminate food through their urine, droppings, dried body parts, and secretions.
How to Avoid Contamination
1. Correct food storage must be practiced. When keeping food, know what sort of items should be kept in the refrigerator, and what needs to be placed in the pantry or in tightly sealed containers. In other words, storage methods must depend on the food type. For instance, milk and milk products have to be kept in the refrigerator, while meats and fish should be placed in the freezer. Cereals, rice, and other dry foods can be kept in the pantry.
2. Proper food handling is essential in avoiding the spread of diseases. Therefore, food handlers, servers, or cooks must always wash their hands thoroughly and practice cleanliness at all times when getting food ready.
3. Leftovers must be placed in tightly sealed containers and refrigerated if needed. It’s easier for insects to contaminate uncovered food left on a kitchen sink or on a table. Any food that you want to store or eat later must be in a sealed container so that roaches, rodents, and other creepy bugs won’t be able to get to it.
4. Clean up after making food preparations. It’s very important to thoroughly wash all kitchen utensils after slicing food items, especially meats, since these can leave behind many kinds of microorganisms that can easily multiply and infect an area. After chopping chicken meat, for instance, the knife and cutting board used must be washed carefully to avoid the spread of organisms that can cause salmonella.
These are just a few measures that can be taken to protect food from contamination. People should understand that any form of contamination, most especially biological contamination, can severely affect the health of not just one person but many individuals at the same time.
- Frank Lindecke (alias Kimayoi72). “026 / 365 – Fresh cooking // Frisch gekocht”. January 26, 2013. Online image. Flickr. April 22, 2013.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Claire Brent regularly writes about preventive pest control issues. She hopes that her articles will offer more information to home and business owners about their pest management options.