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Opinions of Saturday, 5 September 2015

Columnist: Essel, Kojo Cobba

Safe kitchens; fewer home accidents

This week we continue our quest to stay safe and our next port of call is the kitchen. The kitchen is a major player in heart-health and also a potential accident site. Quite too often people end up with several injuries including life-changing burns.
This week I am hosting Sylvia Takyi a seasoned Dietician and an Occupational Hygienist with a strong interest in pursuing food safety issues in Ghana and across the globe. Sylvia believes that “Health and safety essentially looks at the welfare of a person or people engaged in work. We often tend to forget that the worker is not only labelled as a member of the working class but also a person who undertakes a task of any kind (e.g. cooking in the kitchen at home).
Most of us have not come to terms with staying safe and healthy in our kitchen due to the rush attached to cooking after a long day’s work or stress we go through in our quest to satisfy our hunger and also swerve nightmares such as DUMSOR (lights out)!! In as much as eating provides us with the energy that drives us through the day, and keeps us during the night, we also need to stay safe in the kitchen where our sumptuous meals come from.”
The awareness of kitchen safety is very crucial in the course of the preparation and cooking of food as well as during clean-up and daily living in our various homes. Additionally, the kitchen is an environment where accidents can occur easily if some common hazards are not recognized and addressed. Thus understanding the hazards present in the kitchen can help us avoid accidents or prevent exposing our family to various episodes of food poisoning. In as much as cooking is fun and we may also like to satisfy our hunger, let us also think about the knives, fire as well as bacteria!

Statistics show that most accidents that happen in the home are mostly in the kitchen. The young and elderly are particularly at risk. Cuts from knives and cans, injuries from slipping on wet floors and faulty appliances are frequent events that occur in the kitchen and may be very serious.

• Remove all potentially dangerous equipment and appliances (e.g. knife, fork, blender, kettle etc.) and store them out of reach of young children. Keep appliances serviced and clean.
• Avoid accommodating gas cylinders in the kitchen.
• Turn off gas cylinders after use and always check for leakages.
• If a step stool (kitchen ladder) is used, make sure that it is stable and in good condition.
• Avoid wearing loose clothing or long sleeves in the kitchen and tie up long hair.
• Avoid using bare hands as ‘testers’ when cooking but rather use spoons to avoid burns.
• Keep dishcloths and paper towels away from the stove or open flame.
• Avoid loose mats and rugs on the kitchen floor to prevent accidental trips.
• Clean all spills on the kitchen floor immediately to avoid trips and falls.

• Sanitize your rubbish bin. Wash and disinfect it once a week. This will remove any foul smells, which might be emanating from the trash bin, as well as stopping any bacterial growth
• Be fire-safe! First of all install a smoke detector device in your kitchen. Have a serviced fire extinguisher in the kitchen and also make sure you know how to operate it. Furthermore, make sure you have a fire blanket in the kitchen.

1. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food.
2. Prepare and store cooked and uncooked foods separately.

3. Keep your kitchen clean: wash surfaces, utensils and boards between different uses. Use bactericidal detergent where appropriate.
4. Thaw meats and poultry fully before cooking, unless otherwise instructed.
5. If you re-heat food, make sure it is piping hot before serving. Undercooked food, particularly burgers, sausages and poultry, can cause illness. Be sure to cook thoroughly until the juice has run clear and no pink/ red bits of the protein remains.
6. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
7. Check the use-by/ expiry dates and use food only within the recommended period.
Sticking to appropriate health and safety in the kitchen can really save us a lot of money. Our health will always be our wealth so let us all try to keep our kitchens healthy and safe to improve and sustain the quality of life.

These are very useful points raised and we should make it a point to put them into practice. An important caution to adults; NEVER drink from bottles. Children will learn this terrible habit from us and may end up drinking something poisonous. It is extremely important that we avoid storing kerosene, detergents etc. in bottles that children associate with and as Sylvia pointed out keep all things out of the reach of children and KEEP CHILDREN OUT OF THE KITCHEN! IT’S NO PLAY GROUND.

Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Moms’ Health Club/Health Essentials

*Dr Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.

Article written by; Sylvia Takyi a Dietician/Occupational Hygienist
Her References:
1. Basic Rules of kitchen safety. For Dummies.
2. Measom, C & Media, D. (2015). Kitchen hazards and Kitchen Safety.
3. Food Hygiene & Kitchen Safety.
4. Miller-Wilson, K. (2015). Health and Safety in the Kitchen.