The recommendations of the Colombian Ministry of Health to avoid getting sick with food during Holy Week

The Ministry of Health and Social Protection makes some recommendations to the population taking into account the increase in the consumption of fish and seafood that can occur during Holy Week.

The director of Promotion and Prevention of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Gerson Bermont, warned that “the basic public health measures to determine the quality and freshness of fish and shellfish start by acquiring them in recognized places that maintain the sanitary measures established for its conservation”.

In addition, he recalled that “a prevention and self-care practice is to wash your hands well with plenty of clean water and soap after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, cleaning the house, touching animals, before handling food and before eating in this costly way. Effectively, food-borne diseases and acute diarrheal diseases will be prevented,” he said.

What to consider when buying

● Purchase fresh, healthy foods according to their usual appearance, smell, texture and color.

● Avoid buying food on the street, mainly fish and shellfish, as they do not guarantee the minimum conditions of conservation (hygiene, protection, refrigeration or freezing).

● Fish and shellfish must be refrigerated immediately after capture and maintain the cold chain during transportation, display, and sale. For this reason, they should be the last products of the purchase and consume them in the shortest possible time or if they are not going to be consumed soon, refrigerate or freeze them at home as soon as possible.

● Avoid buying foods that have frost or ice crystals on their surface, as they may have been stored for a long time or have lost the cold chain.

● Dried fish must have a uniform yellow color, without reddish or greenish spots or smell of ammonia and packaged to avoid contamination.

● The inner meat and surface of the shellfish should be moist, soft and slightly firm without black spots or sticky feeling to the touch and its odor should be characteristic. The shrimp must keep the head and legs firm to the body, without presenting black or grayish rings on the surface of the body.

● Fish products that have a shell (such as lobster, crab and shrimp) should be hard and flexible to the touch. Crab, crab and lobster claws should return to their original position when stretched. The clams must have a complete and well closed shell.

● Remember to check the expiration date of packaged foods, the sanitary registry and the integrity of the containers.

● Canned products must not show cracks, bulges, or rust. When opening the can, no gases or strange odors should be released, nor should any stains be observed on the product or on the inside of the container.

How to prepare meals at home?

● Maintain cleanliness at all times: wash and disinfect all surfaces and utensils that are going to be used for food preparation, make sure that everyone who is going to participate in the preparation washes their hands before and during the preparation as many times as necessary (every time they change activities, when they touch waste or bins, and whenever they go to the bathroom).

● Use potable water to wash and prepare food, and if you do not have access to this service, boil the water in advance, cool it quickly and keep it protected in a plastic container with a lid.

● Wash and disinfect fruits and vegetables, especially those that are going to be consumed in raw preparations (salads, juices, etc.).

● Cook foods thoroughly, using methods such as boiling and baking. To roast, use medium heat long enough for the food to cook completely inside, before browning on the surface.

● Don’t thaw food at room temperature, do so by moving food to the refrigeration section of the refrigerator a day or two before preparation, depending on whether the pieces are thick or thin.

● Handle raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods separately at all times, using different containers and utensils such as cutting boards, knives, stirring spoons and others, so that there is no cross-contact between them.

● Serve food as soon as possible after preparing it, if you must reserve it for a while (maximum two hours in the environment), protect it with lids, plastic or aluminum films, do not allow anyone to taste it. If it is for more than two hours, keep the food covered in the refrigerator and when it is time to serve, heat completely and for several minutes, mainly meats or mixed meals with meats.

● Foods that are consumed raw, such as preparations with fruits, vegetables, or cooked salads with sauces, must remain in the refrigerator until they are consumed.

● Try not to keep leftovers, but if you must, use plastic or glass containers with lids, and heat them very well before consuming.

Eat food away from home? Please note:

● Do not eat street food, no one guarantees the safety of these foods. They can not only contain microbes, but also air pollutants.

● Prefer recognized places that are supervised by health authorities and that comply with biosafety protocols.

● If you order food at home, make sure that the restaurant is supervised by the health authorities and that they guarantee the quality and safety of the food until delivery.

General recommendations

● Do not eat or drink alcohol in excess, both practices are harmful to your health

● Buy liquor in places recognized and monitored by health authorities, and check the integrity of stamps, caps and labels, many intoxications occur from consuming adulterated liquor.