As the prevalence of food-related illnesses increases each summer in Qatar, Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) is offering advice on staying healthy during this time period.
According to HMC officials, food poisoning is one of the most common cases the hospital sees during Qatar’s hot summer months. The illness is typically caused by the consumption of bacteria-infested food.
The main culprits include food that has not been kept cold enough, a lack of hygienic preparation and food that has been stored improperly or is undercooked. Although anyone is prone to the illness, there are certain groups of people who are more at risk.
In a statement, Dr. Galal Saleh Alessai, emergency physician and medical toxicologist at Hamad Hospital, said:
“Elderly people, children under 5 years of age, people with a serious illness or disease such as diabetes, pregnant women, people with a compromised immune system, people who are taking medication such as steroids, antibiotics or antihistamines, or those who travel frequently are at a greater risk of contracting the illness.”
The incubation period for those with the illness can be as quick as a few hours or as long as several weeks.
The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches. Other symptoms can include abdominal pain, fever and chills, a loss of appetite and in severe cases, seizures, bloody stool and physical weakness.
To stay safe, HMC recommends the following:
- Maintain good grooming habits. In addition washing hands, make sure to cover or pull hair back while cooking; keep tables and counters clean and make sure the kitchen is pest-controlled.
- Serve (almost) immediately. It’s ideal to cook food that is consumed on the same day. Cooking in advance can result in incorrectly storing food, increasing the risk of illness.
- Avoid cross-contamination. When storing food in the refrigerator, be sure to keep cooked meals and raw items away from each other, i.e. put the former on the top shelf and the latter on the bottom shelf.
- Thaw with care. When defrosting frozen chicken in the sink, try to stick with cold running water, and make sure the temperature does not exceed 21C. Keep the frozen items in its original packaging to avoid contamination of the kitchen area, and preserve its nutritional content.
- Cool with ice. It’s ideal to store prepared food in the fridge quickly to lessen the time of room temperature exposure. To help cool down the food, consider cutting up the item into small pieces, sealing it into a container and submerging it into a basin of crushed ice or chilled water.
A national focus
This year, Qatar has been making a concerted effort to increase food safety.
In February, amendments were made to Qatar’s food law No. 8 of 1990, adding stricter punishments and more authoritative power to close law-breaking venues down.
Authorities have also been upping their efforts to catch restaurants and eateries that breach food safety regulations.
Since the amendment of the food law, the government has been visiting food venues unannounced and steadily closing down those that pose public health hazards.
And for the first time, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) has begun naming and shaming those that have been closed for breaking the law.
However, for now, that list is only available on the MMUP’s website, in Arabic – though there has been talk of making the information more accessible to residents.
Thanks HMC, but shouldn’t this advice have come out about 2 months ago !!!!!!!!!
Another solution is to spend the summer outside Qatar…
Kinda amazed that this is news, this is not groundbreaking advice is it? Just the very basic stuff surely we all know by now(?)
The thing is in Qatar majority if not all people who read newspapers, listen to news on radio, read or comment on dohanews know about this. Unfortunately, people who dont know about this dont read newspaper, dohanews or probably don’t understand English. So, HMC should find a way to get to this set of people.
You are absolutely right. Information should be produced in the various languages of the people working here and distributed widely. Maybe HMC could have fieldworkers going out giving out info & practical lessons.