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World Food Safety Day: Mistakes that are making your food unsafe

On this World Food Safety Day, we make you aware of the mistakes that are making your food unhealthy and dangerous. © Shutterstock

We are celebrating World Food Safety Day for the first time ever. On this occasion, we tell you how small steps can help you keep your food safe and healthy.

Written by Editorial Team |Published : June 7, 2019 5:07 PM IST

Do you think that just washing your vegetables before cooking and throwing away expired milk are things what you need to do to ensure food safety? If your nodding says a yes, you are probably mistaken. Food safety requires a lot than you imagine. To make people aware of food safety measures and to make sure that everyone has access to nutritious and healthy foods, United Nations General Assembly has marked 7th June as the World Food Safety Day. This day aims to reduce the disease and death burden of unsafe, contaminated food.


This is a significant move by the UN in response to the increasing incidences of foodborne ailments. According to WHO, "An estimated 600 million cases of foodborne diseases get registered annually world-wide. And, children under 5 years of age carry 40 per cent of the foodborne disease burden with 1,25,000 deaths every year." Surprisingly, there are more than 250 infectious and non-infectious agents that may contaminate your food. The main culprits behind the illnesses that contaminated foods give you are bacteria, chemicals, virus, and parasites. These figures reflect the logic behind the theme chosen for World Food Safety Day 2019: Food Safety, everyone's business.

Notably, foods can become contaminated at any point along its journey from production to consumption. According to a study published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, majority of foodborne disease cases in India go unrecognized or un-investigated and noticed only after any major health or economic damage takes place. In such a scenario, it becomes extremely difficult to control the outbreaks, detect and remove implicated foods, identify the contamination factors, and strengthen the food safety policies and programmes.

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We, as individuals, can take small food safety measures at home. This will go a long way to prevent the outbreak of diseases caused by what we eat, one of the primary aims of World Food Safety Day. To ensure that your food is good for your health, you need to know where you are going wrong in choosing, cooking, cleaning or preserving it. On this World Food Safety Day, we make you aware of the mistakes that are making your food unhealthy and dangerous.

Your ready-to-eat foods and raw meat share the same plate

Chances of cross-contamination are high when raw meat, poultry or seafood come in contact with cooked meat or any ready-to-eat foods. This type of food placement can make it easier for foodborne pathogens from raw meat to sneak into already prepared foods. This can lead to food poisoning. Therefore, it is advised to always use separate utensils for raw and cooked foods.

You defrost food on the counter

Do you know that harmful foodborne pathogens grow in numbers when foods are kept in the temperature range of 4.44 C and 60 C? Surprised? Don't be. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), bacteria levels can double in just 20 minutes in this temperature range. Therefore, you should avoid defrosting food by leaving it out on your kitchen counter. Instead, always thaw foods with cold water or in the microwave. Also, do not re-freeze your food after defrosting it.

You allow food to cool before putting it in the fridge

You should not leave your food outside the fridge for a duration longer than two hours if it is over 32.22 C outside. This is because the bacteria associated with foodborne diseases can multiply quickly when perishable foods are left in the temperature range of 4.44 C and 60 C. Refrigerating foods in a timely manner is significant for preventing the onset of any foodborne disease. In case you are carrying these foods outside, keep them in a well-insulated cooler with ice or cold packs.

You eat foods containing uncooked eggs and flour

Raw eggs may contain Salmonella or other harmful bacteria that cause a variety of diseases. If you eat raw eggs, you may experience symptoms like bloody stools, diarrhoea, chills, headache, stomach cramps, nausea, etc. Mayonnaise, homemade sauces have raw eggs. Therefore, try to avoid them. Also, raw flour may contain E. coli bacteria, responsible for causing infections like bacteremia, cholangitis, cholecystitis, urinary tract infection (UTI), traveller's diarrhoea, etc.

You keep marinated meat on the kitchen counter

Leaving marinated foods on the counter can infect them with harmful germ, thanks to the warm temperature. Also, do use the raw meat's marinade on cooked foods? Well, in that case you are helping the pathogens of the marinade to pass on to the cooked food. Shun this practice.

You leave your food under-cooked

To kill the harmful bacteria in the food, you need to cook your food sufficiently. Most of the times, people rely on sight, smell or taste to figure out if the food is completely cooked or not. However, this isn't the right way to check. Buy a food temperature. The core temperature of the dish you are cooking should be 70 C.

You don't wash your hands properly

The bacteria linked to foodborne illnesses don't only thrive on your plates and bowls. They may 'party' on your hands too. Therefore, it is extremely important to always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Also, use soap and warm, running water to do so. Not washing your hands can cause cross-contamination of foods.

You don't replace sponges and dish rags at regular intervals

How many times do you make it a point to change your sponges or dish rags? Several studies have revealed that that these are two of the most dangerous germ hotspots in a household. They may contaminate your utensils and food as well. So, sanitize your sponges at least every other day by microwaving them for at least two minutes. Also, replace them after two weeks. It is important to rinse and squeeze out the sponge before storing it. Let it dry before using it again.

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