Protect the quality and safety of your food
Food can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses (called germs), which produce poisonous toxins. A person eating this food may be infected by the germs and made sick from the toxins. Because HIV affects the immune system and the body's resistance to disease, people with HIV/AIDS are more vulnerable to germs and should be careful to avoid eating contaminated food. If they get food poisoning, they will lose weight and become even weaker, which will lower the body's resistance to future infection.
Most food poisoning can be prevented by following some basic rules of hygiene. Food hygiene measures have two aims: i) to prevent contamination in food preparation areas; and ii) to prevent germs from multiplying in food and reaching dangerous levels. The food safety and hygiene practices suggested below will achieve both these aims and ensure maximum protection from the risk of harmful germs.
Disposal of faeces
Many of the germs responsible for food poisoning are spread through faeces. Aim to:
- use a latrine and keep it clean and free from flies;
- keep the surroundings clean;
- wash clothes, bedding and surfaces that might have been contaminated with faeces in hot water with soap.
- Always wash hands with clean water and soap or ashes before, during and after preparing food or eating, and after visiting the toilet. Dry hands on a clean cloth or towel.
- Cover all wounds to prevent contamination of food during preparation and handling.
- Use safe clean water from protected sources such as treated piped water supplies, boreholes, gravity feed schemes and protected wells. If the water is not from a protected source, it should be boiled before consumption. Care must be taken during collection and storage to use clean containers to prevent contamination. Water containers in the home can easily become contaminated by dirty cups and hands that have not been washed. When people drink contaminated water they will become sick.
Hygiene in the kitchen
- Keep all food preparation surfaces clean. Use clean dishes and utensils to store, prepare, serve and eat food.
- Wash vegetables and fruit with clean water.
- Cover food to prevent both flies and dust from contaminating the food.
- Keep rubbish in a covered bin (and empty it regularly) so it will not cause offensive smells and attract flies, which can contaminate food with germs.
Cooking and storage of food
Germs multiply more quickly in warm food. Storing food in a refrigerator or cool place slows down this growth. Cooking on a high heat can also kill most germs. Food should be eaten as soon as it is cooked.
- Cover and store food in containers away from insects, rodents and other animals.
- Store fresh food in a cool place or refrigerator where available.
- Cook food thoroughly, but do not overcook vegetables.
- Serve food immediately after cooking. Do not leave the food standing at room temperature before eating, to avoid germs multiplying.
- Do not store raw and cooked food together; use containers to avoid contact between them.
- Avoid storing leftovers unless they can be kept in a refrigerator or a cool place. Do not store them for more than one or two days and always reheat them at a high temperature.
- Cook meat and fish well; meat should have no red juices.
- Wash utensils and surfaces touched by animal products with hot water and soap before preparing other foods.
- Keep meat and fish separate from other foods.
- Eggs should be hard boiled. Do not eat soft-boiled eggs, raw eggs, cracked eggs or any foods containing raw eggs.
However careful one is, food-borne infections may happen. The advice for diarrhoea in Chapter six will help, but when a person has serious food poisoning it is important to see a health worker without delay in order to avoid weight loss and further illness.