As the nationwide, “Safe Food, Safe Family” campaign reaches its final stages, we were amazed by what this non-profit community initiative led by Al Yasra Foods managed to accomplish in such a short period of time. Aimed at engaging the community in a conversation about food safety, weekly events were held at various hotspots across Kuwait.
From weekly ‘Food Safety Week’ events held at different hypermarkets or cooperatives filled with interactive tips and tricks, barbecue cookouts that encouraged and educated beach goers about barbecuing safety, seminars at school for pre-schoolers right up to high school children to having a ‘DIY Detergent Booth’ at an organic market to teach people how to make their own safe and organic detergent, the initiative has been well executed to ensure that awareness is raised throughout different facets of Kuwait’s society. bazaar caught up with campaign ambassador and seasoned nutritionist, Dana Ghareeb, to find out more.
Tell us about yourself Dana, when did you first become interested in nutrition and food safety?
My journey began in high school, when I had horrible eating habits and would fall sick all the time. That’s when I decided that it was time to make a change and I started my foray into the world of healthy eating. I felt healthier, more energized and more positive as a whole, and my mother, who is also a very health-conscious individual, encouraged me to share my new healthy outlook with others. That’s when I decided to pursue nutrition as my career path, thus completing my degree and masters in that field.
What’s your biggest concern as a nutritionist based in Kuwait?
The main concern I have regarding food safety is that people are unaware that it starts at home. They are quick to point fingers at the co-operatives, supermarkets and food distributors, but take no ownership when it comes to proper food handling procedures. For example, I see people placing their groceries in the trunk of their car in Kuwait. The weather is way too hot in this region for food items to be left in the trunk; they have to actually be left in the backseat where air conditioning is circulating. Also, most people have no idea that their eggs should be kept on the shelves of their fridge and not on the door. The constant opening and closing of the fridge door causes the temperature to fluctuate and eggs cannot withstand this constant change of temperature. This, and other risky food safety behaviors are the primary reason Al Yasra Foods started the initiative “Safe Food, Safe Family”.
Spill the food safety beans, what is this all about?
We’ve all heard of food poisoning, and many of us have experienced it. However, most of us assume that we have no role in preventing food poisoning. The most common misconception is that food poisoning can only occur as a result of spoilt, rotten, or expired food items. The reality is that anyone who handles food can be the cause behind food poisoning unless they are fully aware of the right food safety measures that should be taken to prevent it.
What are some food safety measures that must be implemented inside the home?
There are four food safety principles that everyone should live by and they are: Cook, Clean, Chill and Separate. These principles actually start before you even bring food into the home, and start from the point of purchase at the co-op or supermarket and they don’t end until you’ve had your last bite.
Cook: Cook food to its proper temperature and use a thermometer to make sure this actually happens.
Clean: Remember to wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after handling any food, this also encompasses washing fruits and vegetables as well as cleaning all kitchen surfaces.
Chill: Chilling food items is vital, so remember to set your freezer at -18 degrees Celsius and your fridge at 5 degrees Celsius.
Separate: Use separate chopping boards for meat, poultry, seafood, fruits and vegetables and dairy. Also, remember to separate these items in your grocery cart and in shopping bags.
Following these four major principles will help reduce the cases of food poisoning that stem from home. Our website: www.safefoodsafefamily.org houses all of our important food safety information in five different languages – English, Arabic, Hindi, Tagalog and Malayalam.
Can you give us some examples that demonstrate how we easily jeopardize our food consumption on a daily basis without noticing?
There are so many ways in which food is jeopardized at home in Kuwait. One of the most frequent ways food is jeopardized is when people don’t directly head home from the co-operative or supermarket. They tend to pick up the kids and run all their errands before heading back, which means certain frozen items have been left outside of the freezer for over two hours. This is a huge mistake, as by then bacteria would have multiplied on your food item. Additionally, you see people using the same chopping board for raw foods like poultry, and then using the same chopping board to chop up their ready-to-eat vegetables! The list goes on and on, and I think the main denominator in all of them is just the lack of education on what food safety actually is, and how one can practice it.
What is the next step for the ‘Safe Food, Safe Family’ campaign?
Al Yasra Foods has taken the first step in education and awareness when it comes to food safety. We have taken up the role in being catalysts when it comes to reducing food poisoning cases in Kuwait, but ultimately we need the commitment from the consumers, authorities and other companies in truly realizing our vision.
What’s next for Dana Ghareeb?
To continue promoting health, wellness, and food safety in Kuwait and this will be evident in the next stages of our initiative “Safe Food, Safe Family”. We started off targeting consumers in the home, but our goal is a lot broader. We not only want to target families, but restaurants, and manufacturers. We believe that any entity or individual should implement food safety best practices with any relation to food, and we hope that this initiative will start shining a bright light on an issue that hasn’t had much traction in Kuwait before.