Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page



Why foods and drinks must be safe and clean

It is important that the food we eat and the water we drink is clean and safe. So it is essential to prepare meals in a safe, hygienic way. If germs (such as harmful micro-organisms and parasites) get into our foods and drinks, they may give us food poisoning (resulting, for example, in diarrhoea or vomiting). The people most likely to become sick are young children and people who are already ill, particularly people living with HIV/AIDS.

We can prevent most food poisoning by following a few basic and simple rules of hygiene that aim to:

To help families have clean, safe foods and drinks:

Personal hygiene

Wash hands after contact with faeces

Advise people to:

Figure 7. Washing hands helps prevent disease

Dispose of faeces safely

Clean and safe water

Use water that comes from a safe source or is boiled before drinking

Advise families to:

Buying and storing food

Cover foods to keep them clean and safe

Advise families to:

Preparing food

Prevent raw meat, offal, poultry and fish from touching other foods

Advise people preparing food to:

Hygiene around the home

Advise families to:

Toxins and chemicals

Food and water is unsafe if it contains toxins or dangerous chemicals. A toxin called “aflatoxin” is made by a mould that grows on cereals and legumes. Eating aflatoxin can make us seriously ill. Advise families to prevent moulds from growing by drying crops thoroughly and storing them in a dry place. Warn people not to eat mouldy foods or give them to animals. They can add them to compost.

Pesticides and other harmful agricultural chemicals may get into food or water and cause poisoning if:

Advise people to:


Before sharing this information with families, you may need to:

1. Find out. What the sources and quality of household water supplies are. What the local hygiene practices are, particularly those related to washing hands and getting rid of adults’ and children’s faeces. How food is stored and prepared. What the principal unhygienic food and personal practices in the area are. What people know about keeping food and water safe and clean. How agricultural chemicals are used and how they are handled.

2. Prioritize. Decide which information is most important to share with groups or individual families.

3. Decide whom to reach. For example: women and others who prepare food or fetch water.

4. Choose communication methods. For example: health talks, discussions and demonstrations (e.g. washing hands), with community groups and at clinics and homes.

Examples of questions to start a discussion
(choose only one or two questions that deal with the information families need most)

Why is it important to prepare food in a hygienic way?

When should we wash our hands? How should we wash and dry our hands?

Why is it important to get rid of faeces from adults and children safely? How can we do this?

Is the local water supply safe to drink? If not, what should we do?

Is the local milk safe to drink? If not, what should we do?

Why should we prevent raw meat, poultry and fish from touching other foods?

How can we do this?

How should we store different types of food (e.g. vegetables, meat, cooked foods)?

How should we deal with waste from food?

What should we do with mouldy food?

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page