If you’re doing some last-minute grocery shopping for New Year’s Eve, it pays to check food labels meticulously, ensuring that the packaging and seal of the food items are intact and they were are stored in a clean environment.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday offered these tips to merrymakers to avoid stomach troubles and other health problems caused by feasting on compromised or adulterated food products.
“This Christmas and New Year, there is high demand for food products as Filipino families traditionally celebrate through preparation of meals for festivities,” said FDA officer in charge Director General Maria Lourdes Santiago in an advisory.
Basic consumer tips
“Unwary consumers might succumb to unscrupulous food business operators selling compromised, improperly handled and stored, misbranded and adulterated food products,” she warned.
Santiago said the FDA had prepared basic consumer tips on buying food products for the holidays to avoid eating unsafe food.
Earlier, the Department of Health (DOH) said festivities during the holiday season could spawn food poisoning incidents if the food is not handled properly.
The Southeast Asian region, including the Philippines, has the second highest incidence of food-borne illnesses next to Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It registers 150 million cases and 175,000 deaths annually, it said.
Most of these cases are caused by non-typhoidal salmonella, E. coli and pork tapeworm, said the WHO.
In checking food labels, one must pay attention to the following information: brand and product name, net content or weight, list of ingredients, name of manufacturer/repacker/distributor/
importer, expiry date, lot identification code and nutrition information.
One must also check the food item’s storage condition, especially for those needing storage beyond the normal room temperature, food allergen information (such as nuts, milk and crustaceans) and direction for use.
Tampered label details, like scratched out information and a new expiry date pasted over the original one, should be considered red flags, the FDA warned.
To ensure that food items are still safe for eating, the FDA said soft packaging materials like plastic, foil and aluminum wrap must not have tears or perforations. Metal bottle caps must be rust-free while glass bottles should be crack-free.
It advised consumers not to buy canned goods that are dented, bulging and rusting.
“Food products must at all times be sold under optimal hygienic conditions [such that] the probability of cross-contamination from biological, chemical and microbial hazards must be reduced, minimized and eliminated,” the FDA said.
Frozen and refrigerated products must be kept frozen or stored in a refrigerator while perishable products should be kept away from non-perishables to prevent cross-contamination, it noted.
Consumers were also advised against buying food sold in a dirty environment or in areas infested by rodents, insects and other pests.
“Consumers are advised to be more vigilant and conscious in buying food products in the market to avoid health and safety issues,” the FDA said.