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Health Surveillance and Disease Management / Veterinary Public Health / Food Safety

The 5 key ways to keep your food safe (Content Manual)

(PAHO/INCAP - Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama, Guatemala, 2006)

Las 5 claves para mantener los alimentos seguros

Full Text (in Spanish, 34 pp, PDF, 1165 Kb; chapter headings translated below for user orientation)
Presentation (translated to right)
I. Introduction to the manual
II. Five key ways to keep food safe

Key Way 1: Use clean food and water
Key Way 2: Keep things clean
Key Way 3: Separate raw meat and fish from other foods
Key Way No. 4: Cook food thoroughly
Key Way No. 5: Store food at a safe temperature
III. How do we keep from getting food poisoning?
INCAP IV. Things to remember
V. Bibliographical references
VI. Glossary

5 Key Ways Project:
- About the Project
- Activity Book / Teacher's Manual
- Progress Report
- Manual, Parent Advisory Council
- Poster (in Spanish)
- INCAP Fact Sheet (in Spanish)

PAHO Links: Food Safety


- Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP)
- Caribbean Food & Nutrition Institute (CFNI)
- Environmental Health & Sustainable Development

Panalimentos (Pan American food safety center in Argentina)

WHO Links: Food Safety
- School Health Promotion
- Global School Health Initiative
- Environmental Health


The purpose of this manual on The 5 ways to keep your food safe is to serve as tool or educational/reference guide for the educational community (elementary-school principals, teachers, and pupils, as well as local school boards) for teaching and learning five basic ways to keep food safe and prevent it from becoming contaminated.

The contents have been adapted so that those in charge of preparing school meals can be trained in this subject, with the aim of ensuring safe and healthy food for students. This manual contains a notebook with various suggested activities to help teachers reinforce what they teach in the classroom. In addition, it includes a Practical Guide on Food Safety Management for school meal programs, designed especially for local school boards.

In many countries in the Region of the Americas, diseases related to a lack of adequate food-protection environmental sanitation measures constitute a serious public-health problem. Every day, people contract diseases from the food or water they consume. These diseases go by the name of foodborne diseases (FBDs) and are caused by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated by microorganisms, dangerous germs, and/or toxic chemicals that can cause diseases and even death.

These diseases represent a serious threat to public health, mainly affecting boys and girls, pregnant women, and older adults. Every year, millions of boys and girls die from diarrheal diseases, while billions suffer frequent episodes of diarrhea that seriously affect their nutritional status. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70% of all diarrhea cases come from eating contaminated food or from drinking polluted water.

As stated in the Health in the Americas 2002 report, bacterial contamination of food caused by bad handling practices represents the most important risk factor associated with the emergence of disease outbreaks in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the Region, diarrheal diseases are among the five main causes of death for all ages in 17 countries, being the leading cause of death in 5 of them and the second main cause of death in 4.

In Guatemala, according to data reported in the Weekly Epidemiological Report issued by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare (MSPAS), at the end of the 2005 the number of cases of food- and/or waterborne diseases stood at 376,162—5% less that the year before, with a cumulative incidence rate for the country of 2,962 per 100,000 inhabitants. Also observed was an increase in the figures reported as a result of Hurricane Stan. In this regard, reported data on acute pesticide poisoning in the country showed an incidence rate 6.2 per 100,000.

In countries like Guatemala, and particularly in rural areas, a considerable number of etiologic agents lead to diarrhea or other forms of foodborne diseases. Infectious agents such as bacteria, parasites, and virus—in addition to noninfectious agents such as chemical products, poisonous fungi, and heavy metals—can be present in food and water, affecting not only its utilization by the human body but also causing diseases and even death.

Most of these diseases can be attributed to poor food handling as a result of

  1. bad health or poor hygiene habits on the part of the people who handle the food,
  2. contamination of cooked food through contact with raw food or contaminated surfaces, and
  3. inadequate cooking of food that does not allow for the total destruction of microbes.

These foodborne diseases could be avoided if the proper procedures were to be carried out to limit the growth and survival of microbes in food. It is important to teach those dealing with public-education issues, staff in charge of preparing school meals, and the general public of the importance of following good hygiene practices regarding food, cooking and eating utensils, and food-preparation areas. Such practices will ensure that food be safe to eat and that people will not run any risk of acquiring foodborne diseases from them.

Considering the importance of this subject and the need for tools to promote healthy lifestyles specifically related to food safety, WHO prepared a Manual offering five basic best practices for avoiding food contamination during its preparation and storage.

This manual has been adapted for use in elementary schools in the country, as part of the global Healthy Schools initiative promoted by WHO, PAHO and PAHO's regional Pan American Center, the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP). The manual recognizes schools not only as places to learn science and culture, but also as entities promoting the healthy development of boys and girls, adolescents, parents, and teaching staff.

We hope that these documents will contribute to teaching this topic in the schools, so that boys and girls and their families can learn and apply these five practices and thus reduce the emergence of foodborne diseases, not to mentioning improving nutrition and family health. We also hope that these educational material are useful as a tool to support other institutions involved in school meal programs, promoting a healthy environment, and of educational activities on food and nutrition.

1 Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare (MSPAS) of Guatemala. 2005. Weekly Epidemiological Report (Situation of the Main Epidemiological Surveillance Events). Week No. 47-2005. MSPAS, Guatemala.

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