Annet Wangui has for many years boiled cabbages, meat and potatoes together as she prepared food.
“I have been boiling mixed items together like this for over 20 years since l learned cooking. In fact, l grew up seeing my mother prepare it in the same manner,” she begins.
During all this time, it never occurred to her that mixing food then boiling it together is wrong because she and her six siblings have been eating such food for a long time.
The 33-year-old mother of three who lives in Mukuru slums was shocked to learn this was wrong and could result in food contamination, during a Make Your Food Safe Campaign held at Mater Hospital’s Comprehensive Care Clinic in Nairobi.
The campaign sponsored by The European Union and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization sensitized mothers across the city on eating food that is right, clean, safe and with right nutrients.
According to Dr Charles Odhong, Director at Value Chain Consultancy, food safety is an increasingly important public health issue.
“This refers to the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food to prevent contamination microbes or toxic chemicals resulting in food borne illness,” he explains.
Dr Odhong says it is necessary to periodically check the temperature of refrigerators or freezers in order to reduce the risk of food contamination.
“Refrigeration of foodstuffs should be below 40 degrees, and not stay in the fridge for over a week. The best time should be five days but one week is also allowed,” he said.
The doctor warns against mixing foods when cooking saying some of the items may not have sufficient time to get properly cooked.
“Meat requires cooking for long time on high temperatures while vegetables like sukuma wiki require a short time and on low temperatures. Therefore, if you mix the two and boil them together, vegetables will lose their nutritional value,” he says.
To many of the mothers, like Wangui, hearing this for the first time - the information was well received.
“I have learned something new, not just in terms of how to prepare food but also how to store it. We have been taught that raw and cooked food should be kept separately in order to reduce the risk of food contamination,” Wangui said.
“I have only one cutting board which l use to cut sukuma wiki, cabbage, meat, tomatoes and onions. I have learned that it is wrong and can lead to food contamination,” explains a shocked Maurine who lives in Kariobangi North.
Maurine, 41, promises to look for more cutting boards or thoroughly clean the one she is using after she is done with a particular food item.
Pauline Mwanjaro, a nutritionist at The Mater Hospital, also advised mothers to prepare foods that are nutritious as well as clean.
“Look for fresh vegetables and fruits in the market. Do not pick those with yellow leaves because they have already lost their nutritional value,” she said.
She also told mothers to use clean utensils and wash their hands every time they want to prepare food saying proper hand hygiene can prevent food-borne diseases.