Q: What are your thoughts on food hygiene when eating leftovers?

Someone on Quora asked me about food hygiene when eating leftovers. Here’s my answer:
There are 3 aspects to food hygiene.
The first is germs and bacteria from food preparation. In Singapore, this area of food hygiene is superb, so no problems here. Most of the time the food is still warm, or in some cases still steaming, when I get to it.
If you eat at hawker centres, you might want to be mindful of birds that get to the food before you do. I avoid these and usually stalk consumers who are about to finish their meals. I wait for them to leave then quickly get to their seat before the birds can come.
The second is the transmission of contagious diseases such as flu, cough, etc. Because I consume food from a variety of sources, I regularly expose myself to small amounts of viruses. This actually strengthens my immune system. Case in point, I have not fallen ill once since I started this practice.
The third is the transmission of more serious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, which I’m told can be transmitted via food. Reliable sources say otherwise:
The main obstacle is really psychological. Once you overcome your own psychological barrier, you find that it’s not so bad to share saliva with a stranger.
As for the benefits, there are several:
  1. It’s free. Which means you can eat as much or as little as you want for the same price. 
  2. As mentioned above, you get a stronger immune system. You also learn more about food hygiene because, hey, you want to take calculated risks, don’t you? And you can explain it to those who ask.
  3. Comfort challenge. By trying this out, you are challenging yourself to expand the boundaries of your comfort zone. Soon, you will be comfortable with it, and get excited to further expand your boundaries.
  4. Following from #3, you get to sample different foods. Usually when you eat at a hawker centre, you can usually only order and eat one dish before you’re full. Unless you’re with a group of friends and order multiple dishes to share. In which case you’re likely already sharing saliva. By eating leftovers, you can literally eat a bit of this and a bit of that, allowing you to try food from different stalls, depending on how you want to mix and match.
  5. Following from #4, you get to eat foods that you normally would not order when you’re using money. You become more adventurous with food because you can simply get up and walk away if you don’t like it after taking one mouthful.
  6. Following from #5, you get a more well-balanced diet. By eating many different foods, your body gets more nutrients and vitamins than you normally would on your usual diet.
  7. You become a happier person because you experience gratitude daily to the people who have left behind food for you.
  8. You become a less picky eater, have lower expectations for your food as compared to when you’re paying for it. As a result, every meal becomes a delight and an adventure because you never know what you’re going to get to eat.
  9. You become a much more interesting person. You can write about it on Quora, you have many more stories to tell, and sometimes television and magazines will want to interview you. Complete strangers will comment on your answers, ask you questions, and then follow you on Quora. All because you stepped outside your comfort zone.

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