Unfortunately, we now live in a world of deadly viruses and drug-resistant bacteria. Singapore, an air hub and a densely populated island with a hot humid climate, is particularly vulnerable to various disease threats.
The 2003 Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak infected 238 people in Singapore, with 33 deaths. The Covid-19 pandemic has, in just a year, seen over 90 million infected globally, with close to two million deaths.
I have, over the past 20 years, been contributing feedback to The Straits Times Forum page on the issue of sharing food. Covid-19 has vindicated my concerns.
Sharing food is common here. Among the Chinese, it entails dipping chopsticks and spoons into common dishes.
The health authorities in 1994 confirmed that by sharing food, we are likely to share saliva as well, including any bacteria or viruses in it. They also recommended the use of serving spoons and separate soup bowls and sauce dishes (both at home and when eating out).
Regrettably, this important public health advisory was never widely publicised. Hence many Singaporeans remain ignorant of the health risks associated with sharing food. Popular food shows on TV often portray this unhygienic eating habit.
Covid-19 can be spread by small liquid particles from the nose or mouth – including saliva. Various other bacteria and viruses can be transmitted via saliva.
The authorities should kick-start an effective public education drive on eating the hygienic way, with serving spoons. “Effective” means getting the majority of the people to adopt this hygienic eating habit – which they can then pass on to their children and grandchildren to help fight disease threats.
The National Environment Agency can also use its licensing clout to compel hawkers and restaurants to provide serving spoons for all common dishes. Failure to comply would mean licence suspension or cancellation.
David L.K. See