Its monsoon time again! Monsoon is the perfect gateway for all to have a breather from the scorching heat. This is the perfect time for enjoyment, especially for children. It is also a time to be extra careful about infections, in particular, gastrointestinal infections. This is because scientific studies have shown that various infectious diseases, including some diarrheal diseases, exhibit a seasonal variation, peaking in the rainy season. Moreover, during the monsoon season, immunity level in people fluctuates, making them more susceptible to infections. Coupled with this, the digestive enzymes have lower activity, and the digestive system also becomes more sensitive and vulnerable to infections. Therefore, we should be extra conscious c about what we eat.
During rainy seasons, the moisture in the air increases, and along with it, various microbes tend to multiply. In particular, the fungi tend to grow and multiply profusely in this increased moisture conditions. The most common fungi that spoil food are the moulds.
Special precautions for food items
Bread and other bakery products like cakes, pastries and confectionery are particularly susceptible to spoilage by moulds. Therefore, we should not keep these food items exposed to the moist air on a stretch. . We should consume these items as soon as they are taken out of their air-tight packets. Since cakes and confectionery contain sugar, they are a rich source of nutrients for bacterial growth. This is another reason why these food items shouldn’t be kept out in the open for long. Care should also be exercised with milk & milk products, as these are susceptible to contamination and spoilage by microorganisms, particularly in the humid weather, which is common in the monsoon season. Care should be taken, not only for food items, but also for various ingredients and additives that are used for preparation of the dishes. These should be kept in hermetically sealed containers, so that they are not exposed to moisture.
Cut fruits also shouldn’t be kept out in the open during rainy season. These should ideally be consumed as soon as they are cut, to avoid any contamination with microbes. Likewise, fruit juices should also be consumed fresh and not stored for later consumption.
The storage of cooked food is very important. Prepared food should ideally be consumed hot, soon after cooking. In case of delay in consumption, , it should be quickly cooled, carefully covered and refrigerated in order to avoid microbial contamination. It is to be noted that while storing food in the refrigerator, cooked food should be stored in the upper shelves, while the raw food in the lower ones.
Storage of grains & pulses and raw vegetables should be away from moisture as much as possible. It would be a good idea to avoid buying in bulk during the monsoon season, in order to avoid problems with storage.
It must also be ensured that the kitchen, and in particular the food preparation area is kept clean and hygienic in order to avoid any chances of microbial contamination during the process of food preparation. Moreover, cooked food must be kept covered and away from raw food items that will likely be contaminated with microorganisms.
• Avoid street food
Most types of street foods are generally prepared in open air. There is a chance of contamination of food with rain water. The stalls are sometimes located near open drains, where there is chance of contamination with coliform bacteria, which can cause serious diarrheal disease. Moreover, water used for preparing street food favorites like golgappas is likely to be contaminated, and there is a chance of contracting water-borne diseases like cholera and typhoid in this way. Also, fruit juices from street vendors might be kept in the open and served later, increasing chances of contamination. Moreover, there are chances that the glasses and other items will not be clean. Consumption of Ice-lollies, Kulfi etc during the monsoon season can also lead to stomach problems arising from unhygienic conditions.
• Special precautions for drinking water
It is very important to have a well hydrated body during monsoon months. Therefore, it is essential to drink plenty of water. Drinking water should be safely consumed, since during the rainy season, chances of contamination increases manifold. It should be noted that besides microbes, ground water can be heavily contaminated with chemicals, as these leach easily into the underground water deposits. The best way to ensure safe drinking water is to filter the water, followed by boiling, before drinking.
If these simple precautions and hygienic practices are followed, it will enable you and your family to enjoy and appreciate the true beauty of monsoon season.