- November 22, 2022
- Posted by: zconte
- Categories: Advices, Blog, Food Safety
Vegan Key Food Safety Tips
What Is A Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet is a food preference that focuses on habitually eating plants. On a vegan diet, an individual strictly eats food made from plants and vegetables.
In other words:
The vegan diet excludes foods from animals, such as milk, eggs, meats, and even honey. The purposes for practicing this diet may vary. The most popular reasons are to protect the environment, refrain from participating in the harm of animals, and improve one’s health (Kathleen, M. 2021, September 6).
The vegan diet is perceived with great benefits for being healthy, natural, and safe. Although the overall benefits are perceived as superior compared to other diets, it surprisingly still poses disadvantages. Plant-based foods are typically perceived to be at a lower risk of causing food poisoning than dairy and meat. However, the vegan diet isn’t flawless and may still experience a few food safety issues worth acknowledging.
Here we will recognize key food safety tips for vegans and the recommended solutions.
Be Aware Of The High-Risk Vegan Foods
Contrary to the common belief that high-risk foods are associated with dairy products, eggs, meats, poultry, or seafood. The vegan diet may also pose some high-risk foods that we must be aware of.
Examples of these high-risk foods are:
- Raw sprouts
- Cooked beans, rice, lentils, chickpeas, pasta
- Pre-cut fruits & vegetables
The Canadian Institute of Food Safety stated that all of the foods above had been compromised in food poisoning outbreaks (Canadian Insitute of Food Safety. 2019, July 2).
So what are the key food safety tips to avoid food poisoning?
Let’s start with tofu.
Tofu is the number one meat substitute for vegans. This meat substitute can be savory and tasty when prepared well. Many vegans enjoy buying restaurant precooked or preseasoned tofu to avoid additional cooking. The only challenge when purchasing ready-to-eat tofu is that the tofu may accidentally get contaminated before the ready-to-eat state.
The tofu has a risk of getting contaminated in its journey from being in the hands of the manufacturer to being in the hands of the consumer. It is recommended to buy raw tofu and cook it yourself, this ensures that you kill the germs on the tofu that are present before the packaging or ready-to-eat state.
On the other hand, we will look at bread:
Bread can also be highly demanded in the vegan community for its diverse way of eating. It can be consumed as sweet or salty. It can also conveniently meets the vegan criteria as it only contains flour, yeast, water, and oil (Charlotte, W. 2021, November 18). Not all bread is vegan, for that reason, it’s important to examine the label to ensure no animal products are included.
The main food safety risk associated with bread – is mould.
The following tip can be enforced by all individuals who consume bread habitually. Many of us often throw away only the mouldy bread slices, thinking that the rest of the bread is not mouldy. When it comes to mould, throwing away or cutting off the mouldy bits does not eliminate the risk. It is best to throw away the whole package to avoid food poisoning.
Most vegans may regularly consume vegetables, in particular sprouts. The Canadian Insitute of Food states how uncooked or lightly cooked sprouts have been connected to dozens of bacterial outbreaks. This includes all sorts of sprouts such as radish or clover sprouts, alfalfa, and mung bean. Consuming uncooked sprouts may pose pathogen risks such as Salmonella species, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, and Aeromonas hydrophila (Sylvanus, T. 2000, July). To eliminate the risk of food poisoning, it is recommended to cook the sprouts prior to consumption (Canadian Insitute of Food Safety. 2019, July 2).
Despite what most people think or perceive is safe:
The consumption of beans, rice, lentils, chickpeas, and pasta ingredients poses a risk of toxins that can be generated by Bacillus cereus or Bacillus cereus spores. This microorganism can survive the cooking process and occurs most often within this food category. To avoid generating spores, we can refrigerate the food after the cooking process to limit the Bacillus cereus growth, preventing the microbes that generate the harmful spores. Remember the danger zone? You must follow the danger zone rule to keep food above 60 C or below 4 C. The longer the food is waiting out at room temperature, the more likely the Bacillus cereus can grow and generate more harmful spores (Cleveland Clinic. 2022, July 7).
Lastly are the food safety tips for pre-cut fruits.
Pre-cut fruits are cut and undergo preparation, which allows the fruits to be exposed to the environment. Essentially, it makes it easier for bacteria to access the fruit’s flesh versus when the fruits are intact. A common pathogen associated with pre-cut fruits is listeria monocytogenes, which may cause Listeriosis. Listeriosis is usually caused by eating food with Listeria monocytogenes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it has been estimated that 1,600 people are infected with Listeriosis each year, and about 260 pass away (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022, September, 30). That is 16.25% of death for all reported incidences.
The food safety recommendation?
The FDA advises selecting products that are already refrigerated or packed in ice or refrigerating the produce as soon as you get home to eliminate the bacteria (Lisa L, G. 2022 March 21).
Wash Your Fruits & Veggies
Fruits and vegetables have so many great benefits. According to Harvard T.H Chan, a diet rich in vegetables & fruits can protect you from heart disease, stroke, and even some cancers (Harvard T.H Chan). Not only that, plant-based food is naturally lower in calories and higher in fiber, which may promote weight loss. It’s always been recommended to eat plenty of fruits and veggies.
The key food safety tip?
We need to take into consideration the handling and prepping process.
The vegetable and fruit themselves aren’t usually what poses a risk. The risk comes from the harmful germs that the fruits and vegetables may have been contaminated with. There is a chance the product could contain harmful germs as mentioned Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria.
For that reason, you must carefully choose your produces to make sure you remove the spots that aren’t bruised or damaged (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
The harmful bacteria can also be easily avoided by simply cooking your food or washing the produce.
To cook produce:
Make sure to heat the produce at a temperature of approximately 160 ° F for at least 15 seconds. The produce should be safe to eat after the bacteria is killed in the heat, therefore make sure you cook it correctly (Kristina. 2015, December 7).
Washing produce can be quite simple.
The first step is to wash your hands before rinsing the produce, then wash the produce with water, and dry it with a cloth or napkin (FDA. 2021, June, 15). Please do not use soap. Many people believe washing your fresh produce with soap is ideal.
The truth is:
The fruits & vegetables may absorb the soap or the soap may not end up rising off all the way. Soap is not meant for consumption since it can cause irritation to your gastrointestinal system, which can even cause bad side effects like vomiting (Becky, K. 2021, August 9).
There is an alternative to washing fruit juices.
You could use chlorine bleach as a sanitizer to clean raw fruits and vegetables. There are two conditions, which are not to exceed 2000 ppm hypochlorite in the concentration of the water and to wash the produce after the process (William, M. Food Technology Fact Sheet). Typically, you will not need more than 200 ppm, unless the produce is very, very dirty (William, M. Food Technology Fact Sheet).
Caution With Unpasteurized Fruit Juices
The juicing fruit trend, which has always been rising in popularity, is freshly squeezed juice or unpasteurized fruit juice. You can find unpasteurized fruit juice at a restaurant, juice bar, or farmer’s market. Many vegans have favored fresh unpasteurized juice since it is perceived moras e beneficial for containing quality antioxidants and nutrients that are still fresh and ready to be absorbed by the body. Consumers perceive that by drinking pasteurized juice, they are at a disadvantage from the loss of natural antioxidants and nutrients due to the pasteurization process.
They are missing out on the quality nutrients they would have received if the juice had been consumed fresh.
Listeria monocytogenes typically attack the more vulnerable population such as the elderly, pregnant women, seniors, young children, and other immune-compromised individuals. While unpasteurized juice will not harm the general population, it can affect vulnerable populations. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration, pregnant people and children are recommended to avoid unpasteurized juice (Cecilia, S. 2022, April 6).
In other words, the key food safety tip is to be conscious of the risks associated with unpasteurized juices.
Pasteurized fruit juice, such as a packet of orange juice, which has always been readily available and has accompanied us since we were kids. Most pasteurized juices are heated to a high temperature for a short time before it is sold, intended to kill off all harmful germs (Houston Texas Gov.).
All in all:
If you prefer pasteurized juice over unpasteurized juices, you can always pasteurize your own juice. When pasteurizing your own juice, the BC CDC recommends heating freshly squeezed juices at about 185° F for about 16 seconds to destroy all germs (BCCDC. 2013, September).
Putting The Food Safety Tips Together
The vegan diet, as well as other diets such as the keto diet, Mediterranean diet, paleo diet, and pescatarian diet, have their distinct benefits and risks. It’s good to be knowledgeable about the various diet types and the potential risks and benefits.
The vegan diet is a diet focusing on plant-based diets and is perceived as a diet that is better compared to consuming meat. Vegan diet practitioners may also believe that consuming raw, less cooked, and untreated food is wholesome and close to the food that comes from the earth.
A vegan diet is a great practice for relying on mother nature. However, it is important to recognize the potential risk of consuming raw foods and unpasteurized foods especially when it comes to vulnerable individuals. The food safety risk can outweigh the small nutrient gains from consuming raw products.
As with all types of dietary preferences, a vegan diet has its pros and cons. You must manage the risk of consuming raw foods and high-risk plant-based foods. Did you enjoy reading our key food safety tips? Let me know.
Do you practice a vegan diet? What surprising key food safety tips stood out to you?
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- Living, V. F. and. (2022, October 5). Is bread vegan? how to tell what bread is vegan. Vegan Food & Living. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/how-to-go-vegan/is-bread-vegan/
- Bacillus cereus: Food poisoning, symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23581-bacillus-cereus
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, September 30). Listeria (listeriosis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/index.html
- Gill, L. L. (2022, March 21). Precut fruits and vegetables recalled at Wegmans and other retailers for risk of listeria. Consumer Reports. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.consumerreports.org/food-recalls/precut-fruits-and-vegetables-recalled-for-risk-of-listeria-a1186826439/
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, January 20). . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/steps-healthy-fruits-veggies.html#:~:text=Wash%20or%20scrub%20fruits%20and,produce%20wash%20is%20not%20recommended%20.
- Commissioner, O. of the. (n.d.). 7 tips for cleaning fruits, vegetables. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/7-tips-cleaning-fruits-vegetables
- Krystal, B. (2021, August 9). Why you shouldn’t be washing your fruits and vegetables with soap. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/08/09/washing-produce-soap/
- Snyder, C. (2022, April 6). What is unpasteurized juice and is it safe? Healthline. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/unpasteurized-juice#safety
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- Guidelines for the Use of Chlorine and Bleach. Retrieved on Nov 15, 2022, from https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/print-publications/fapc-food-and-agricultural-products-center/guidelines-for-the-use-of-chlorine-bleach-as-a-sanitizer-in-food-processing-operations-fapc-116.pdf