VITA stands for Volunteers in Technical Assistance. It is a private, U.S. nonprofit organization that supports people working on technical problems in developing countries. With information and other assistance, VITA helps individuals and groups select and implement technologies appropriate to their situations.
Today’s topic is safe food storage, and we will be offering listeners information about how to get a free booklet on this subject, entitled Understanding Home-Scale Preservation of Fruits and Vegetables PartII: Drying and Curing. This is part of VITA’s continuing effort to provide an introduction to specific state-of-the-art technologies of interest to people around the world. The booklets are intended to be used as guidelines to help people choose suitable technologies. And listeners are encouraged to contact VITA for further information and technical assistance. We will give you the address later.
Here is Jane Kuczynski with a look at storing meats, fruits and vegetables at home:
The moist surfaces of dressed meats, poultry and fish attract bacteria that cause spoilage and can make you sick. VITA’s Technical Adviser, Gary Garriott, has some suggestions: “These kinds of meats spoil very quickly, so they should not be kept long, especially in warm, moist climates. You can smoke meats, which will help prevent molding, or rub them with dry baking soda, but, basically, you want to eat these as soon as possible.”
Disease-producing parasites, such as tapeworm and trichina, live in meat animals. Although preservatives, such as salt, baking soda and smoke do retard their growth, the best way to destroy those parasites is by thorough cooking.
Fresh fruits and vegetables also need to be kept clean and cool. Here is Gary Garriott with some more hints: “Some cautions on fruits and vegetables are to use those that you find bruised immediately, and, certainly, throw away anything that looks decayed or spoiled. And even ripe fruits or vegetables should be used within two or three days. And, certainly, wash fruits and vegetables before using them with clean water.”
An alternative to washing fruits and vegetables is, of course, peeling them.
The shallower the storage container, the less chance the fruit or vegetables will rot. But if you must store them in deep boxes or barrels, be sure to sort out the decayed fruits or vegetables frequently.
Even canned goods go bad. Gary Garriott tells you what to look out for: “When looking at canned goods, you want to be sure that you do not have any swollen cans because this could indicate the presence of very harmful, and possible fatal, bacteria. Also, you should not use leaking cans. However, if the can is merely rusty, it is probably o.k. to use as long as there are not any holes, leaks or bulges, as we have already mentioned.”
Bulging cans are a likely sign that harmful bacteria are acting on the food inside them.
Gary Garriott tells you how to identify other types of spoiled food: “Many visual clues tell you when foods, and especially meats, are spoiled. You look for slime on the surface of meats and other moist foods. Certainly, bad odors are another indication that something has gone wrong–as is sour taste. If you see any gas bubbling or foaming, that is an indication that something is wrong – any kind of discoloration or strange color that you would not think is normal. And the texture sometimes becomes very soft when bacteria have invaded. So that is something to be on the lookout for and, certainly, any signs of mold that is growing.”
Summing up the principles of safe food storage, Gary Garriott says all foods keep better the cleaner, cooler and drier they remain.
VITA’s booklet Understanding Home-Scale Preservation of Fruits and Vegetables Part II: Drying and Curing, has many more tips on safe food storage. If you would like a free copy, please write to: VITA, Box 12438, Arlington, Virginia and the postal code is 22209. All booklets are in English unless otherwise noted.