Food Safety Training for Nutritionists

By Crowther, J. S.; Cox, L. J. et al. | Bulletin of the World Health Organization, February 1999 | Go to article overview
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Food Safety Training for Nutritionists

Crowther, J. S., Cox, L. J., Gross, R., Kaferstein, F. A., Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Voir page 174 le resume en francais. En la pagina 175 figura un resumen en espanol.

More than three million children die annually from diarrhoeal diseases, while hundreds of millions suffer from frequent episodes of diarrhoea and its debilitating consequences (1). The incidence of these diseases is increasing in the industrialized countries, despite the advances made in water quality and sanitation. The kinds of gastroenteritis occurring in these countries are predominantly campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis, caused respectively by Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella species. The epidemiology of diarrhoeal diseases in developed countries is linked to contaminated food (2), and it is likely that this is also a factor in developing countries. Contaminated weaning foods can be a source of Escherichia coli (3). Changing patterns of foodborne disease have been linked to altered food consumption practices (4). Additional problems are presented by food adulteration and Chemicals in the environment, particularly in developing countries.

A knowledge of food safety provides a basis for the development of intervention strategies at all stages between production and consumption, with the aim of preventing foodborne diseases. These strategies include inspection by government agencies and educational campaigns directed at food handlers, process operators and people preparing food. The points of intervention vary in accordance with the nature of the food chain in different countries. In Indonesia, for instance, a significant proportion of the food consumed is purchased from street vendors.

Nutritionists need information about local conditions that influence food safety, and have to be able to identify points where contamination can occur or where the survival and growth of microorganisms are favoured. In developed countries their skills are applied through adoption of the hazard analysis and critical control point system (5).

Guidelines on food safety have been developed for governments acting in partnership with nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, local communities and the international community (6). In 1991 the Industry Council for Development of the Food and Allied Industries (ICD) was approached by WHO and the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) for assistance with integrating food safety into the Master of Science degree programme in nutrition of the South East Asia Regional Centre for Community Nutrition, located in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Centre, financed by the Indonesian Government, receives technical support from GTZ and the Canadian International Development Agency. The programme now includes a short course on food safety which is intended to enable nutritionists to raise general awareness of this subject.

Objectives, design and structure

On completing the course, participants are expected to:

- understand what safe foods are and how they can be produced;

- recognize unsafe foods and preparation practices;

- understand the effect of infection on nutrition;

- be capable of intervening to prevent foodborne diseases;

- know how to teach the principles of food safety.

The course, comprising eight modules (see table), was designed for nutritionists in Indonesia but it can readily be adapted for public health inspectors and other professionals, and for other countries. It gives special attention to the practical knowledge and skills needed for recognizing unsafe food and food preparation practices and for developing intervention strategies.

Food safety course for nutritionists

Module                           Topics

Basic food microbiology          Nature of microorganisms,
                                 including harmful ones. Beneficial
                                 microorganisms and how they grow.
                                 Microbiology, including pathogens
                                 likely to be present in raw food

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