Dubai: Summer is in full swing and yet, it is still expected to get hotter next week as UAE residents make their way into the month of August.
With the temperature expect to peak to 48 - 49°C in the coming days, health and food safety authorities in Dubai have warned residents to take extra precautions when storing their food – especially those that contain eggs, fish or raw meat.
Dr Nada Al Mulla, family physician at Dubai Health Authority, explained that there is usually an increase in food poisoning cases during the summer as the temperature and level of humidity rise, which is the ideal environment for germs to thrive. She also pointed out that while most food poisoning cases occur from dining at restaurants, it can also happen at homes when food is not prepared or stored appropriately.
“The most common cause of food poisoning that occurs at this time of year is mayonnaise, as people do not place it back in the refrigerator after use. This problem also occurs with ketchup and hot sauces,” said Dr Al Mulla.
Poorly cooked food may also cause food poisoning, especially with sushi and raw kibbeh – known as Kibbeh nayeh that is made of minced raw lamb or beef, combined with bulgur, pureed onion and a mix of spices.
Salmonella poisoning, a major cause of illness around the world, affects the intestinal tract and can be deadly even though most individuals recover without treatment. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea.
According to the Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality, wrong practices in handling temperature of high risk ready to eat food could lead to food poisoning.
“We noticed that some of the food poisoning patients had eaten food products prepared with eggs. Bacteria called Salmonella enteritidis are found in egg in low numbers, and they can multiply quickly in the food and cause illness. If raw eggs are stored in the chiller, the bacteria cannot multiply. But, if eggs are left at a warm temperature, bacteria can multiply easily and reach levels that cannot be destroyed by normal cooking process,” said a municipality official, while emphasising that many egg products are not fully cooked because of personal preferences and this increases the risk of infection.
Sultan Al Tahir, Head of Food Inspection Section in Dubai Municipality Food Safety Department, emphasised that eggs should be stored in refrigerators all along the food chain from the farm until they are cooked.
“In the kitchen, eggs should be broken carefully in a segregated area to prevent contamination of other ready to eat food. Egg products should be cooked well to a minimum temperature of 75 degrees Celsius. Eggs that are stored at ambient temperatures should not be consumed,” he said.
How to avoid food poisoning
- Wash hands thoroughly when handling or cooking food.
- Provide a hygienic environment for food storage and cooking.
- Food poisoning is most likely to be caused by non-vegetarian foods.
- Refrigerated food should be stored in temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees.
- Frozen food should be stored in sub-zero temperatures.
- Heated food should be cooled down to room temperature before it is refrigerated.
- Foods that will be consumed within 24 hours can be refrigerated.
- Foods to be consumed after 24 hours should be frozen.
- Change food habit and throw away suspected items if suffering from food poisoning.
- Food being transported from other countries during travel should be dealt with care as it has undergone different temperatures during transportation.