Eating reheated or leftover foods such as rice is a bad bout of food poisoning that can put anyone out of action for 24 hours, a food scientist, Dr Daniel Anang, has warned.
According to him, leftover rice and other prepared foods that have sat out too long at room temperature are safe havens for the food poisoning bacteria known as bacillus cereus.
Speaking at a day’s workshop on food safety and hygiene for matrons in public senior high schools and colleges of education in Kumasi, Dr Anang explained that symptoms of the disease are vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
The workshop was organised by the Ghana Baptist University College in Kumasi as part of its programme to establish a food research centre to ensure safety of foods served and handled in second cycle institutions in the country.
For the food scientist, the best way to avoid food poisoning from bacillus cereus and other bacteria is to always cook the quantity of rice needed at a time, and that boiled or fried rice must not be stored under warm conditions, especially within the range of 15-50° C.
He explained that spores of bacillus cereus, the bacterium that can cause food poisoning, can survive when rice is cooked and the said rice if left at room temperature allows the spores to grow into bacteria.
“These bacteria will then multiply and may produce toxins (poisons) that cause diarrheoa,” he indicated and added that this could lead to paralysis in an acute situation.
“Plan how much food you need at a time and don’t waste it,” the food scientist urged in a response to an assertion that reheating leftover foods is a good way of cutting down expenditure on food and cooking.
Dr Anang, who is a senior lecturer at the Manchester Metropolitan University in UK, admitted though that some leftover foods can be potentially healthier second time round, the high-risk foods such as cooked meat, milk and dairy products, eggs, shellfish and other sea foods have the potential to be dangerous.
The excess use of saltpetre, he pointed out, can also be a contaminant with the potential to make the food poisonous because of the nitrate content.
“Since you are handling foods, you have legal responsibilities to keep yourself clean, keep the workplace clean, protect food from contamination, follow good personal hygiene practices, wear appropriate protective clothing, and not attend to food if you are suffering from or a carrier of a food-borne illness,” he charged.
Dr Anang stated that legal compliance, increased profit, reduction of running cost and secured business/livelihoods are some of the impacts of good food safety practice, pointing out that it costs the UK government between one to three billion pounds yearly to treat food poisoning.
From Ernest Kofi Adu, Kumasi