See me smell me taste me; faith-based food safety in Malaysia

In the wake of four Salmonella deaths and multiple illnesses at a wedding, 36 sick kids at one school from canteen food and 25 at another, a prominent physician told Malaysia’s New Straits Times consumers could protect themselves against food poisoning by sight, smell and taste.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association (PPPKAM) vice-president Dr Othman Warijo said the three steps were part of a imagescampaign by the Health Ministry and were crucial to avoid food poisoning.

“Despite appearing simple, the steps are worth doing to avoid food poisoning, which can result in death,” he said on Friday.

He said victims of food poisoning often blamed food handlers when they themselves ignored safety procedures before eating.

“Look at the physical appearance of the food to find out if the gravy has become sticky. Sniff the food to determine if it is rotten. Taste the food. If one is confident that the food is edible, then one can proceed. Otherwise, leave it.”

He added food handlers must ensure adequate storage and cooking facilities to ensure that raw materials were not contaminated and have basic knowledge in food preparation, be properly attired with their head and mouth covered, use aprons and gloves, and undergo compulsory typhoid injections.

In the Salmonella deaths, Kedah Health Department director Dr Ismail Abu Taat confirmed that the chicken used for the ‘ayam masak merah’ dish was delivered to the host in Kampung Huma a day before the wedding reception was held. “The chicken stock was sent to the house on Friday evening but the meat was only cooked at 4pm the next day, which allowed to bacteria to breed,” he said.