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August 26, 2019


Sustainability is such a buzzword these days. It has become overused like “artisan”, “farm to plate”, and “natural”. One thing that we have to make sure about these days is not just sustainability but also food safety.

I recently had lunch at a friend’s place and did not realize the seafood was probably not “clean”, causing a few of us to get sick. We should, in particular, be careful when being served crustaceans, seashells, and as they say “bottom crawlers”. These are mussels, clams, and other shellfish, which when not sourced sustainably and safely could spell disaster.

Safe food is food that is clean—clean of bacteria and clean of pesticide residue. Clean food is one of the tenets of Slow Food.

In Slow Food, we make sure that our food sources are traceable so we can be assured of its cleanliness. Even if some folks say “it’s good to eat some germs”, I do not agree because these days the germs are stronger and even drug-resistant. Stomach problems are not an easy condition to have because they can cause dehydration and for some, even death.

So, what is there to eat now? And, where do we eat now? Eat in safe places where the kitchens are kept clean and are always well-maintained. Eat where there is running water available.

Eat with clean hands or utensils because it’s not only the source of food that we must check but also the way it is prepared. You can have the best produce but if these are prepared in a dirty kitchen, it will be served as “natural but dirty and unsafe” food.

It must be my second time to get hit with stomach flu in the last few years and I should have followed my gut (pardon the pun):

  1. If it smells bad, it is bad. Except for blue cheese and some other raw cheese, if food smells bad, don’t eat it.
  2. Check the temperature when food is served. Hot food must be served hot and cold dishes like salads must be cold.
  3. Check the kitchen. Peep and see if they mix food and trash, if they use clean utensils, etc. This is why open kitchens are better. Customers see the chefs and the whole kitchen team as they prepare their food.

Next is what to drink. Is the water safe to drink? Especially during the rainy season, some taps may be giving water that is not so safe to drink. When in doubt, order a bottled or soda water or hot tea. Avoid the soda fountains because it uses syrups and soda. They are prone to insects and other foreign matter. When in doubt, just order canned or bottled drinks.

After you have the beverages figured out and seen the food and the kitchen, next is check how sustainable the establishment is. Do they practice sustainable procurement and are part of a sustainable supply chain? Now that’s a hard one! This is why the Philippine Sustainability Movement started. Now on its fourth year of morphing from what started as Sustainable Seafood Month (past 3 years) to now a whole movement on food and related industries, we still are very much a part of it as ECHOstore and as Slow Food Manila. On Wednesday, hotels, organizations, and purveyors will join hands again to launch The Philippine Sustainability Month 2019 at Marriott Hotel Manila.

Join us as we celebrate how to eat sustainably and safely. Come, too, and register for the forum on September 24-25 and be part of the movement for better, safer—and I will say it once more—a sustainable food and a sustainable hospitality industry. Hotels and restaurants, small cafes (like ours), and even your own household must be part of this earth-shaking and world-changing movement.

Thanks to Christian Schmidradner, Claudia Rose Mendez, and Chef Miek Brammer of Marriott Hotel Manila for carrying on all these years.


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