Close ↓

Food poisoning can happen even in your own home, especially if you suffer from what I call the “Sayang Syndrome”

LAST week, I wrote about the dangers of food poisoning, especially during festivities at open houses and eateries that serve raw fish and seafood, and possibly also food cooked days ahead of the function. When you bring along loved ones who aren’t in the peak of health, they may be more susceptible to infections than healthy adults. So keep these considerations in mind.

However, food poisoning can happen even in your own home, especially if you suffer from what I call the “Sayang Syndrome”. I used to tease my late mother about this Sayang Syndrome, namely that inability to discard or throw away something you love. In my mother’s case, it was food. It was usually that last spoonful of delicious gravy that could only be mopped up with another spoonful of rice or piece of bread, or that last morsel of meat that most might not want to keep as a leftover for the next meal.

“Sayangnya nak buang ni,” (what a shame to throw it away) was the common lament at home. So we’d eat it all despite being full to the brim. This type of behaviour can get you over-eating even when full and contributes to excessive weight gain and obesity. It totally goes against everything I now know to be detrimental to those who have to keep their weight down by practising mindful eating.

It doesn’t help that many of us have been raised to finish whatever is on our plate. When I was growing up, I’d be told that every grain of rice left on the plate would cry and curse me if I didn’t eat it. As I grew older and stopped buying into this fanciful admonishment, I was told to think of all the hungry and unfortunate children around the world who’d be grateful for the food I was wasting.

So my siblings and I grew up into adults who didn’t waste food and consequently had weight problems. It didn’t help that we’re also a family of foodies. Our weight issues took us years to deal with.


Along the way, I met people like my brother-in-law — the complete opposite. His mindful eating taught me many things. He’d always tell me, “Let it rot outside, not inside,” whenever I quivered with indecision on whether to leave my plate squeaky clean. That saying has now become my mantra in moments of hesitation.

His other tactic in dealing with huge portions when eating out is to immediately halve the portion when the plate lands in front of him. He’d always say, “I don’t need that much food and I know what the other half tastes like. So I don’t need to finish both halves now.”

He’d either share that meal with someone or take home the other half to eat later when he got hungry.

He’d also ask for salad dressing on the side because most salads tend to be drenched with over-rich dressing. Sometimes he’d ask for the syrup to be served on the side, for his drinks like iced lemon tea, although he prefers water with his meals.

“It’s all about taking control of what you put in your body,” he said. “Don’t let other people sabotage your goals or make you feel helpless.” And therein lies the key: Know what you’re up against and take control.


These mantras can help you focus when you want to clear food from your home. Cleaning the pantry and the fridge can be a formidable task, especially if you’re helping an elderly loved one who is clearly suffering from the Sayang Syndrome.

You’d think that checking expiry dates of bottled and canned goods would be a good place to start chucking things out, right? Not for some. I’ve argued with some of my loved ones who insisted that it was still okay because it looked and smelt fine, and that it’s ok if you heat the sauce up before eating.

All literature I’ve read on this says to discard it! Sometimes you just don’t know what kinds of microbes have contaminated them. Throw away bulging cans, leaking jars and of course, foul-smelling preserved food. If a can hisses or liquid spurts out when you pierce it, throw it away!

Some people with Sayang Syndrome may still try to salvage this by cooking it with spices. Don’t do that. Think of the hospital bills you’d have to fork out just to “save” the RM10 canned food, not to mention the diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps that could happen.

Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Prevention is always better than cure.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang.She can be reached at [email protected].

Close ↓