09 April 2015

World Health Day 2015 – Safe Food for Well-being

Tuesday 7th April marks World Health Day 2015 and this year the focus is on safe food from farm to plate. Food should play a vital role in the daily life of every human being on Earth, yet poor food handling and contaminated water are estimated to cause up to 2 million deaths globally each year. The WHO state that over 200 diseases are caused by food containing parasites, harmful bacteria, viruses and chemical substances.

Safe food is not only essential in daily life, it’s also a vital part of well-being. A healthy diet including fresh fruit and vegetables influences every aspect of an individual’s health. It contributes towards a positive mental state, provides the body with the nutrients to heal itself and can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.

Safe food handling practices are essential knowledge for every healthcare assistant, home carer and support worker preparing meals for clients in their own homes, or when feeding patients in an acute environment. Every step from the storage of ingredients to the serving of a meal should be carefully considered, and actions to reduce any type of infection taken. Safe food handling is underpinned by a good hand hygiene routine, which should take place prior, during and after food preparation.

The environment also plays a significant role in both the safety and enjoyment of food. Storage of food at the correct temperature and the cleanliness of the tools and surfaces that come into contact with food are both important. The immediate surroundings of the place in which a person eats should be considered because simple changes such as ensuring meal times do not take place near a commode or washing equipment can greatly enhance the enjoyment of a meal.

The contribution of food to an individual’s well-being is bigger than a safe preparation process alone. For a person receiving care, either in their own home or in hospital, meal times represent milestones during the day. The time taken by the healthcare staff to not only assist with feeding, but to converse with the individual can have a huge impact on their well-being. Similarly the presentation of a meal will affect the overall experience of the person; the phrase ‘the first bite is with the eye’ has never been more apt.

Food is so entwined with our emotions that it can cause our mental state to change in an instant, but it’s also crucial to our physical well-being. Safe preparation and a positive meal time routine are two essential elements of a nutritional programme that can promote recovery and support wellbeing.