PHILIPSBURG – World Health Day is marked annually on April 7. This year the focus is on food safety. New data on the harm caused by foodborne illnesses underscore the global threats posed by unsafe foods. World Health Day highlights the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety under the slogan “From farm to plate, make food safe.”
Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Hon. Claret Connor would like to congratulate all those working in the food sector on the eve of World Health Day, for the very important role that they play on a daily basis in restaurants, supermarkets, food trucks, small grocers, road side food tables, food kiosks, soup kitchens, home-made for sale food, etc.
“We are in the tourism business. It’s the main pillar of our economy which we all stand on and support on a daily basis. The food that is prepared has to be safe for consumers and our visitors to eat.
“This has to be done on a daily basis several times a day, and therefore everybody who prepares food has a very important role to play in making sure that the food we eat, that our guests consume at hotels, or while in restaurants is always safe to eat. I commend all those for keeping our country’s food preparation safe,” Minister Hon. Claret Connor said on Monday.
Unsafe food can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, and cause more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhea to cancers.
Examples of unsafe food include undercooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins, as well as how the ingredients are stored, handled, or prepared.
Points of sale should be well lit, clean, and cooled, and their personnel should follow basic hygiene habits and behaviors. As consumers we have the right to demand products that offer full safety guarantees and to request truthful, understandable, and detailed information about food.
Minister Connor pointed out with annual Carnival festivities gearing up to kick off in full swing just days from now: “I am encouraging all street market vendors and booth holders to keep their stands and booths clean and organized.
“Food items should be stored properly – off the floor surface – on shelves and tables with clean and dry surfaces. This area should be kept free of domesticated animals and insects.
“To the consumers, where it concerns the purchasing of food for sale on our streets; when purchasing food items choose places where the food is protected and stored in tight lid containers. Confirm that food is correctly refrigerated and that cooked food is served at high temperatures,” Minister Connor pointed out.
Food should not be exposed to room temperature. Food that is served raw should be completely clean, with no soil residue. Food prepared with fresh fish should be displayed on refrigerated stainless steel trays.
Any kind of sandwich, meat, pate, fish cake, meatball, etc. should be displayed in refrigerated display cases and should be consumed immediately because these are not frozen dishes; rather they are refrigerated and ready-to-eat.
Vendors should use gloves and clean utensils to handle food, and meets basic standards of hygiene. Vendor’s personal hygiene is very important, because dirt from hands and clothes comes into contact with the food that is prepared. Hair should be pulled back and covered with a cap. Nails should be short, clean, and free of nail polish.
“The aforementioned tips serves to ensure that the overall experience of preparing, storing, selling and consuming of foods are done in the safest of environments, as our mothers always thought us, ‘an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.’ Once again, I wish the community of Sint Maarten a safe World Health Day,” Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Hon. Claret Connor concluded.