|Prof Oxford: 'Half the battle is won just by washing your hands alone with soap and water before handling any type of food items.'
Research shows that children in particular are highly exposed to the threat of food-borne diseases despite eating meals prepared at home. Every year, there are about two billion cases of diarrhoeal diseases globally and it is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. Diarrhoea kills 1.5 million children every year.
Most Malaysians infected with food poisoning tend to blame the sickness on the uncleanliness of street food or any form of food that is not cooked at home. This is not necessarily true says the Global Hygiene Council.
Working in partnership with Dettol, the council recently held a presentation on the importance of practising good hygiene habits to curb the increasing spread of infectious diseases in today's community.
The presentation and talk was held at Ben's in Publika, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur, by Prof John Oxford, chairman of the Global Hygiene Council. Also present at the event was Nikhilesh Kalra, commercial director of Rekitt Benckiser Malaysia and Singapore, which manufactures Dettol products.
“It is Dettol's mission to help the public improve hygiene at home and in the community. Hence, we work closely with the Global Hygiene Council, which is led by the world's top hygiene experts, to formulate realistic and practical recommendations on simple hygiene measures to help prevent the spread of infections,” said Nikhilesh.
According to Prof Oxford, cross-contamination happens when minimal attention is paid to disinfection during food preparation.
This is when there is an easy transfer of bacteria from raw food to secondary surfaces such as ready-to-eat-food and various surfaces in the kitchen.
For example food such as poultry goes straight from the freezer into the fryer without being washed. The same chopping board used to cut poultry is also used to cut fruits or vegetables without being disinfected first.
This cross-contamination creates a form of bacterial growth that can lead to infectious diseases to an end user.
Hence, the first few steps in the prevention of many infectious diseases in the kitchen itself include washing hands before handling food; washing and cleaning products and utensils used before, during and after food preparation; and using different knives and multiple chopping boards for various items of food.
“Half the battle is won just by washing your hands alone with soap and water before handling any type of food items, and it is a clear indication of good hygiene practices to prevent various diseases,” said Prof Oxford.
It is also very important to store food items in clean and germ-free areas of the kitchen. Even if food items are refrigerated, they are easily contaminated with bacteria and should be heated or washed before being served.
The professor also stressed the importance of educating children on good hygiene practices.
Schools are also advised to equip kids with items such as soap, hand sanitisers and clean towels or tissues. Teachers and educators should also encourage kids to practise good hygiene habits such as washing hands before eating and washing hands after play time.
Agreeing with Prof Oxford, Nikhilesh said, “It is every parent's hope that their children are healthy and able to lead successful lives in the future. Hence, instilling hygiene education during their early years is a crucial step in helping them stay healthy. In turn, this allows them to learn without the interruption of infectious diseases and make the most of their childhood.”