Food poisoning happens very often. This is when a person becomes sick after eating food that has been contaminated. Food is contaminated by disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites and their toxins. The symptoms of food poisoning are well-known, as are the treatment methods.
Most Common Foods Involved
People eat many different types of foods every day. Some of these are fresh, while others are dried or preserved by other means. Some of the foods are organic, while others are artificial. Some foods are plant or animal based. Food can also be cooked using a range of different methods, including frying, boiling, steaming, and baking. All of these factors can influence the chances of the food upsetting the stomach of the person eating it.
There are some types of food that are more likely to be behind food poisoning than others. The most common foods are meat, vegetables, dairy, and fruits. Looking at these further, poultry is the most likely to cause food poisoning. When chicken and other types of poultry are not cooked sufficiently, the risk of food poisoning is high. The common bacteria Salmonella and Campylobacter can live in the guts and feathers of the birds. If these are not killed during thorough cooking, they can cause illness when the meat is eaten.
Fruits and vegetables are commonly eaten raw, and because of this, they are also top contributors to food poisoning. This is especially true for tomatoes, lettuce, celery, spinach, and cabbage. The bacteria involved in this case could be E coli, Salmonella, or Listeria.
Fish and shellfish are also common causes of food illness through histamine, which is a toxin produced by the bacteria in fish. Other foods that commonly lead to food poisoning include rice, unpasteurized dairy products, deli meats, eggs, and sprouts. The risk of food poisoning can be reduced to a large extent by understanding food hygiene and the right food handling and temperature conditions. These topics are discussed at the end.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Depending on the food eaten and the bacteria and toxins involved, the symptoms of food poisoning might vary. Symptoms can include an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dehydration, and also fever. The symptoms may be mild or severe, but it is important to get medical attention quickly. There are various treatment methods depending on the extent of the illness.
Preventing Food Poisoning
Proper food handling is required to make sure that food does not carry harmful organisms and toxins. This applies at all stages of the food supply chain, including the harvesting of fruits and vegetables, slaughtering or milking of animals, food storage and transportation, and food cleaning and preparation.
A lot of the contamination that occurs in food happens when food is prepared or kept at the wrong temperatures. Fish, for example, is very sensitive to the temperature it is stored at. Once histamine is formed in the fish when it is kept at the wrong temperature, no amount of cooking can destroy it. For cooked rice, keeping it at room temperature for long periods of time allows spores from the Bacillus cereus bacterium to start growing. To reduce the health risk, rice should be eaten hot and as soon as possible after it is cooked. Leftover rice should also be reheated at high temperatures.
Foods that are not cooked, such as fruits and vegetables, must be cleaned well using clean water. Another important point to note in food preparation is how to avoid cross-contamination. Utensils and cutting boards used for raw meat should not be used directly for vegetables and other foods. Meat should be cooked thoroughly. Finally, use-by dates on food items must not be disregarded, especially for fresh foods.