Philippine Health Department warns: Watch what you eat, shun expired food

Photo: The Straits Times

Resist eating expired food, throw away any unlabeled food items in your pantry and don't fall for "buy one, take one" promos selling products past their "best by" date.

The Department of Health gave these safety tips to consumers on Tuesday following the recent spate of food poisoning incidents across the country.

DOH spokesman Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy reminded the public to be extra-careful with the food they eat, buying only from reputable sources and checking their appearance and condition.

Dented, bulging and deformed canned goods should not be purchased or eaten as these are usually signs of bacterial contamination, Lee Suy said.

He stressed the importance of checking the expiry or best by dates of perishable products. "Buy one, take one" items must still be of good quality and within the safe period, he said.

"Do not insist on eating expired food. They are not fit for human consumption. It's similar to drugs or medicines," said Health Undersecretary Nemesio Gako.

Gako reminded consumers to avoid buying unlabeled repacked food products purported to have been manufactured by the makers of well-known brands.

"Repacked food products must bear proper label information and must have been prepared in a hygienic facility and manner," Lee Suy said.

On Friday, more than 1,900 people, mostly children, fell ill in the Caraga region after eating durian candies that may have been repacked before being sold. The victims experienced vomiting and abdominal cramps a few hours after consuming the sweets.

Earlier this month, more than 100 elementary students in Pangasinan were rushed to the hospital after consuming a popular candy with its expiry date obscured from a vendor outside the campus.

Lee Suy said that at the first sign of food poisoning, the patient must be brought to a health facility. The patient must not be forced to vomit as this might do more harm than good. Bring along the suspect food item for testing, he said.

The usual symptoms of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever.

"We call on the public to be aware of the initial symptoms of food poisoning… whether mild or severe, the patient must be immediately brought to the nearest hospital because poisoning is deadly and immediate medical attention is warranted," he said.