Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Evaluation of the Safety of Domestic Food Preparation in Malaysia

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Evaluation of the Safety of Domestic Food Preparation in Malaysia

Article excerpt

Introduction

Foodborne illness, one of the most widespread kinds of disease (1), remains uncontrolled in both developed and developing countries. Its etiology, impact on public health, and epidemiology vary and the problems associated with it in developed countries can be expected to emerge also in developing countries.

In developing countries, where family income is low, the household remains a major source of human food. Food is prepared in domestic kitchens for home consumption and for sale through the informal food distribution sector. Culturally acceptable education on safe food-handling practices is therefore important to prevent foodborne illness. In order to achieve this it is necessary to identify unsatisfactory practices and the sociocultural factors that influence them.(a)

The "hazard analysis critical control point" approach to the control of food quality has been widely applied in the food manufacturing industry (2). It involves the systematic identification of hazards during the production process, the identification of critical control points for these hazards, and the design of procedures for the specific control and the monitoring of such points. This approach is also applicable to domestic food preparation where, however, it has been less frequently employed (3-5). The critical points that have been identified to control the preparation of unsafe food are the targets for food safety education programmes aimed at preventing foodborne illness. The present article describes the food-handling practices identified when this approach was adopted to analyse the preparation of some common foods for domestic consumption and for sale through the informal street food sector.

Studied were the general domestic food management, food-handling practices, and some sociocultural factors associated with food-handling in a rural and an urban community in Kelantan, north-east Peninsular Malaysia, in order to identify practices and behaviours that could be used in a food safety education programme. The analyses were specifically designed to target critical control points for dealing with contamination by and proliferation of foodborne bacteria that commonly cause illness, e.g., Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens and Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

Materials and methods

Study sites

The study was performed in both an urban community, Kampung (Kg) Langgar, and a rural community, Kg Tujoh, in Kelantan State in the north-east of Peninsular Malaysia, where visits were made to 119 households (315 adults) and 158 households (594 adults), respectively. Compared with Langgar, the rural community had larger households, lower household incomes, main care-givers who had lower education levels and poorer access to amenities for good food hygiene, i.e., clean water, sanitation, cooking fuel, and refrigeration.

Cooking area hygiene

Cooking area hygiene was assessed by observation during the interview with the key respondent in each household, when a standard checklist of questions was used to avoid differences between interviewers. Observations were scored as 1 or 0 (corresponding to "yes" and "no", respectively) for a separate kitchen, an unclean cooking stove, food scraps, an unclean floor, uncovered food, no waste container, and evidence of the presence of animals or birds. Scores of 0-2, 3-4 and 5-7 were categorized as "good' "acceptable", and "poor", respectively.

Hazard analysis

The hazard analysis critical control point approach was used to assess the preparation of midday meals in two households (1 and 2) in Kg Langgar and in two households (4 and 5) in Kg Tujoh, and that of nasi bunkus (breakfast food) in a third household (3), also in Kg Langgar, that sold food via street vendors in this community. Each household had 10-12 occupants. All the households were supplied with treated town water and had access to a pour-flush toilet; cooking was carried out using a gas stove in all but household 4, which had a wood-burning stove. …

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