EXPERTS: HANDLE EXOTIC FOODS WITH CAUTION TO AVOID CONTAMINATION
Experts say exotic food, just like any other meal, must be prepared with necessary sanitary precautions to avoid foodborne diseases.
Balaw-Balaw is a restaurant in Angono, Rizal that serves exotic food. Prominent for dishes such as adobong uok (coconut worm cooked in soy sauce and vinegar), ginataang crocodile (crocodile in coconut milk), and fried itik (fried duck), the restaurant has turned into one of Angono’s priced cultural gems since its inception in 1982.
However, maintaining the restaurant’s popularity among locals and tourists was not easy. Restaurant owner Andrei Vocalan, explained the extra precaution they undertake in preparing food.
“Pagka exotic food, mas maingat [ang paghahanda] katulad ng uok, dapat thorough washing siya kailangan buhay siya, malinis, fresh (When preparing exotic foods such as coconut worm, it must be thoroughly washed and must be cooked alive, clean, and fresh).”
Exotic foods are prone to various types of bacteria, experts said.
Microbiologist Dr. Windell Rivera says bacteria such as E.coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter can thrive in these types of food, the same bacteria that often infect poultry. When ingested, infection by these bacteria can cause food poisoning, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal pains.
Angono Inspector Officer Dr. Jose Eufracio, meanwhile said safety standards must be met before selling exotic food.
“You have to follow yung patakaran ng Department of Health, kung meron silang mga employee, kailngan nagsubmit sila ng exam, dapat walang sakit (You have to follow the rules of the Department of Health. If the store has employees, they must first undergo a medical exam to prove they are free from any sickness).”
Vocalan however assured that the Balaw-Balaw restaurant undertakes precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their customers. The store claimed they wash food ingredients and utensils thoroughly to kill unwanted bacteria.
“[Sinisigurado namin] yung thorough handwashing, [kasi] inaavoid natin yung cross contamination, (We ensure thorough handwashing because we want to avoid cross contamination),” he said.
Meanwhile, experts added that beyond invading food, bacteria can thrive in storage areas and utensils.
To avoid these bacteria from getting into food, experts advised the public to constantly clean the kitchen area. Thorough cooking of food and proper cleaning of kitchen utensils and storage areas are recommended to avoid contracting diseases.