Hunger is one of the basic pains everyone goes through. Food is the need for our body and mind. And only when our hunger is fulfilled, will we be able to live a good and active life. But we need to ensure that we not only get food, but also ‘good, healthy and nutritious food’. Only if the food is safe will it serve the purpose of eating it. There are many foodborne diseases that can have an adverse effect on our health. We have heard about people who suffer, and even die, due to food poisoning.
So, in order to create awareness about food safety, the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Celebrate World Food Safety Day on June 7.
In a foodie nation like ours, food safety is a major concern. With nearly 130 crore people, hygiene and other safety standards are important. Going back in time, what would Chanakya say about food habits?
“For one making others consume drink or food, which is unfit for human consumption the fine shall be the highest.” (4.13.1)
It is the primary duty of the leaders and the government to ensure food safety is taken care of. Contaminating food is a criminal offence. The above sutra mentions the fact that Chanakya, nearly 2,400 years ago, had taken this aspect seriously.
Also, it was the highest punishable offence. So, how can we ensure food safety at a personal level? Here are some tips:
In most of the cases, we buy food from outside — be it fruits and vegetables, groceries, or even other packaged food or eating in a restaurant. Do not just buy food items based on their pricing. Go one step ahead and try to find out the source of the food.
You would be surprised, many vendors also do not know the source of these food items. Little awareness will help us know the quality of the food as well. In the case of packaged food, it is a bit easy. The place of manufacturing is usually mentioned. That way, you know it is coming from the right place.
There are food standards to be met. There are many government food regulatory bodies, which test the quality of food. In India there are many institutions like Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which test and certify the product. Next time you purchase any food item look for the FSSAI logo and check their approval. There is usually an expiry or best before date as well. It can vary from a few days to a few months and a year or so depending on the product. This is the most important measurement of how safe the food is.
Next time when you buy a packaged food item, check for the expiry date — especially when buying discounted products. One of the major reasons discounts are given is that they need to sell the product before the expiry date.
Traditional methods used in our houses by mothers or grandmothers are also useful here. The smell, colour, taste all these help us to understand if the food has become stale. Many times, we find food being thrown away in our kitchen. Not because its waste, but because the quality isn’t good enough, thus making it unconsumable.
This is the best way to ensure safety. If you have a farming opportunity, try doing it yourself. It is a real joy to sow the seed and nurture it and see the beauty of your own produce. Even in cites, many are trying kitchen farming — in whatever little space available, like a balcony, a few plants can be grown. This helps us understand what a farmer goes through while producing the food for all of us.
Another best way to respect food is to support those who are a part of food services. There are many NGOs and organisations, which give fresh food to the needy. ‘Roti Bank’ an NGO started by former Director General of Maharashtra Police, D Sivanandhan serves millions of hungry people. They also ensure highest level of food safety standards.
So, go check out and get ready to consume good food. And ensure others also get quality and nutritious food.
(The writer is Founder Director of Chanakya Aanvikshiki Pvt Ltd, a bestselling author and an expert on Chanakya’s teachings. He can be followed on his Twitter @rchanakyapillai)