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KUALA LUMPUR: Fifteen food poisoning episodes involving 550 people have been reported nationwide since the start of Ramadan this month.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said this was worrying as it meant there was at least one episode of food poisoning reported every day over the last 15 days.
Last year, there were 33 episodes involving 961 people for the whole of Ramadan.
“Consumers must be cautious when buying food at the Ramadan bazaar because we do not know when and how the food was prepared,” he said when contacted yesterday.
He added that the level of hygiene was also questionable, especially for food that was not covered when displayed at stalls.
The latest episode of suspected food poisoning occurred last Monday when an 11-year-old girl from Klang died after a bout of vomiting and diarrhoea.
She was said to have consumed ais batu campur and otak otak when breaking her fast. The food was bought from a Ramadan bazaar stall. Her family members were also admitted to Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital with similar symptoms.
Dr Hasan said there were many factors that could lead to food poisoning including food preparation and poor storage.
“The main causes of food contamination are preparing food too early in the day and incorrect methods of storing cooked food,” he said.
Cooked food must be stored above 60°C, should be consumed within four hours and must be covered.
“It is the responsibility of all traders to adhere to proper hygiene when dealing with food,” he said, adding that parents should also monitor the food that their children ate.
He explained that a wide range of kuih were often available only during Ramadan and children did not know how they should taste.
“Parents should taste, smell and look for any irregularities in the food before giving it to their children and be sure not to patronise stalls with poor hygiene.” Dr Hasan said the ministry was constantly on the ground to check on the cleanliness and the food handling methods of traders at Ramadan bazaars.
“Permits are only issued to traders who have passed the required medical examination and have experience in the food business.” Dr Hasan gave the following tips to Ramadan bazaar goers: • Ensure the bazaar area is clean.
Look out for flies and ensure that proper rubbish disposal is available; • Food that is exposed should be avoided; • Avoid cooked food that has turned cold, unless it is reheated before being consumed; and, • Before eating, take note of changes in colour, texture, smell and taste.