Several types of food will once again be gracing dinner tables this Noche Buena. However, experts remind the public to be cautious of sanitary practices during food preparation, as neglect may lead to poisoning.
Date Posted: Dec 24, 2014

Several types of food will once again be gracing dinner tables this Noche Buena. However, experts remind the public to be cautious of sanitary practices during food preparation, as neglect may lead to poisoning.


Ham is a favorite delicacy this season. Known as the star of the “Noche Buena,” it has been one of the more consistently served dishes during the occasion. However, experts say undercooked or improperly cooked ham can hide unwanted microorganisms.


“Galing yan sa raw na meat so kapag hindi siya properly cooked, doon siya macocontaminate (Ham comes from raw meat.  An improperly cooked meat may still be contaminated by bacteria),” said microbiologist Dr. Pierangeli Vital.


According to experts, Salmonella can contaminate ham and other raw meat products. Salmonella is a type of bacteria which can cause gastrointestinal disease, which can lead to nausea, vomiting, or even bloody diarrhea.


Feast favorites such as lechon or sisig, as they are pork products, can also be contaminated by Salmonella if not cooked thoroughly, experts said.


Another favorite dish during Noche Buena is cheese. As it is a milk product, cheese is highly susceptible to contamination by bacteria E.coli and Staphylococcus, experts said. E. coli and Staphylococcus may cause gastrointestinal disorders in humans.


Besides high susceptibility during production, cheese is also prone to contamination when improperly handled. Touching it with contaminated hands can cause cross contamination of bacteria.


Experts added, whereas some cheeses are made of edible molds or fungi, some types are not, and ingesting them may be harmful.


“'Yung ordinary lang na cheese, hindi yun ginagamitan ng fungi, so kapag nakakita kayo ng itim o asul na may mga spots dun sa cheese, hindi na yun pwede kainin (Fungi is not used on ordinary cheese. If you a spot a black or blue mark on your cheese, it is not edible),” Vital said.


Some molds and fungi are capable of producing mycotoxins which can be harmful to humans, and may affect the nervous system.


Fruit salad, another favorite dish must also be handled with caution experts said, especially with the choice of milk used for preparing. Using unpasteurized milk can cause contamination by the bacteria Campylobacter and Listeria.


Campylobacter is bacteria type more harmful to young children, adults, and individuals with weak immune systems and may lead to dehydration.


Listeria, meanwhile has a more different property as it can sometimes thrive inside the refrigerator. It can also affect a person's nervous system causing head ache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance or even convulsions.

Fruits and vegetables may also be contaminated by E.coli, hence, experts advise cautious preparation of these, as they are sometimes served raw. Kakanin or rice cakes, meanwhile, can be contaminated by bacteria types Bacillus cereus, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus all of which can cause gastrointestinal disorders.


Whereas most food are contaminated if not washed or cooked properly, experts said they can also be contaminated if they make contact with infected objects.


Cross contamination, the transfer of bacteria from one object or food to another, can occur in various ways.


One possible source of contamination is a dirty cleaner such as a kitchen sponge. A contaminated sponge, if not frequently cleaned, can transfer from one plate to another. Plates not soaped and rinsed properly can further contaminate food.


Similarly, dirty containers can also act as contamination agent.


“Mataas yung risk ng contamination lalo na kung ang ginagamit sa pagluluto ay yung mga meat, tapos may mga juice sila na tumatapon mula sa isang lalagyan papunta dun sa isang lalagyan (There is a higher risk of contamination when juice from meat in one container is transferred or spilled over to another container),” Vital said.


To avoid cross contamination, experts advise separating raw products from cooked ones to avoid cross contamination. Similarly, kitchen cleaners must be frequently washed to avoid bacteria transfer to other dining ware. Before serving meals, experts said thoroughly wash or cook these to minimize bacteria.


The public, especially people who prepare food are also warned to keep their hands clean when handling food to avoid transfer of bacteria.    


Lastly, maintaining overall cleanliness in the kitchen can help avoid diseases.