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    Food safety in primary health care.

    Abdussalam M; Kaferstein FK

    WORLD HEALTH FORUM. 1994; 15(4):393-7.

    The fact that food safety is given a low priority in the health care systems of many countries despite an increase in food-borne diseases may be due to a lack of reliable quantitative data on incidence of disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has linked this increase to intensive methods of livestock production which foster the spread of salmonella and other pathogens. By relying on legislation, regulations, and standards to monitor food commerce, policy-makers have failed to emphasize health education for food handlers and consumers. WHO has proposed a collaborative, intersectoral approach between governments, food industries, and consumers which will emphasize consumer education. WHO has also prepared 10 rules for safe food preparation. Governments can insure the education of consumers and food handlers by using the primary health care (PHC) mechanism for health education. To date, the most intensive involvement of the PHC community has been in efforts to avoid diarrheal diseases through hand-washing, sanitation, and safe storage of water. Insufficient cooking, faulty food storage, and improper reuse of leftovers have all been neglected topics. Food safety efforts at the local level should 1) identify specific food-related practices and behavior relevant to risk factors, 2) change risky behavior and practices through health education, 3) involve the community in making improvements related to food safety, 4) mobilize and coordinate relevant activities of other sectors, 5) report incidences of food-borne illnesses, 6) generate a strong public demand for food safety, and 7) research diseases and cultural practices related to food handling and safety. To achieve these objectives, PHC workers should be trained in the epidemiology of food-borne diseases and the sociocultural characteristics of their area, in health education and community involvement, and in research methodology.
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