Food poisoning is an unfortunate occurrence that can easily spoil a pleasant meal. However, it’s important to understand that this ailment is more widespread than most people realise. Food businesses should therefore imply strategies to prevent chemical contamination and secure consumer health.
It is therefore crucial to be aware of the types of chemical contaminants present in the food, how to prevent them, and when to seek a doctor.
In this blog, we shed light on food poisoning, its causes, symptoms and prevention tips to take from this health condition that might lead to serious complications in the absence of timely treatment.
Food poisoning is a condition that occurs when bacteria or viruses contaminate the food we consume. Additionally, toxins released by bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, can also cause food poisoning. This condition is also referred to as ‘foodborne illness.’
Consuming contaminated food or beverages can lead to food poisoning, caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or their toxins. These harmful substances can cause a range of symptoms, from mild discomfort to severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even life-threatening complications in severe cases.
Causes of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is caused by eating or drinking contaminated foods or drinks.
Food contamination can result:
- In the case of improper meal preparation.
- When food is not being kept below 5°C.
- When food is handled by an individual who is either unwell or has poor hygiene.
- In the case of ‘Cross-contamination’, which is defined as the spreading of bacteria between food, surfaces, utensils, and equipment used.
a) Bacterial Contamination
Bacterial contamination is one of the leading causes of food poisoning. Certain bacteria can multiply in food and produce toxins that can make people sick. There are several types of bacteria associated with food poisoning, including:
Escherichia coli, sometimes referred to as E. coli, is a kind of bacterium that, when ingested through contaminated food or water, can result in severe gastrointestinal symptoms.
Another typical bacteria that can contaminate food is salmonella, which is particularly frequent in chicken, eggs, and unpasteurized milk. Food sickness can result from consuming food that has been infected with Salmonella.
b) Viral Contamination
Food poisoning may be caused by viruses as well as bacteria. When food encounters sick people, their body fluids, or polluted surfaces, it becomes contaminated with viruses.
Norovirus spreads quickly in places like restaurants, schools, and cruise ships, often causing food poisoning outbreaks.
c) Toxin-Related Contamination
The presence of toxins generated by certain bacteria or other organisms can also result in food poisoning. Botulism is a form of contamination caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It can be dangerous.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Food poisoning symptoms might be extremely minor or quite severe. One can have food poisoning but still be unable to identify the food that caused it. Different viruses and bacteria produce various symptoms.
It is crucial to comprehend the signs of food poisoning since they might match those of the common cold or stomach virus, which frequently results in an incorrect diagnosis.
Individuals suffering from food poisoning will show gastroenteritis symptoms like:
- Abdominal (tummy) cramps.
Furthermore, based on the cause of food poisoning, the onset of symptoms might take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
One may seek prompt medical assistance and take the required steps to stop the future spread by being aware of the distinguishing signs.
High-risk foods comprise:
- Rolled and minced meat or, tenderised or prepared meat.
- Raw or undercooked poultry like chicken, turkey and duck.
- Raw or lightly boiled eggs.
- Cold meat including hams and salami.
- Cooked pasta or rice or pasta, which is not stored at an accurate, required temperature.
- Cooked salads pasta salads, fruit salads, coleslaw, or rice salads, not stored properly at the right temperature.
- Unpasteurized or raw dairy products
When to Visit a Doctor
The majority of food poisoning cases don’t require medical intervention.
However, if you have serious dehydration or belong to one of the high-risk groups listed below, you should visit your doctor.
Also, individuals should visit a doctor if they face any of the following problems:
- Serious symptoms.
- Unable to maintain liquid intake for more than a day.
- Symptoms that have lasted for more than three days.
- blood or mucus in vomit and stools.
Food Poisoning – High-Risk Groups
The high-risk groups include individuals who are at a higher risk of food poisoning.
These include people who are:
- Pregnant Women.
- Senior citizens.
- Individuals with a medical condition and weak immune systems.
Food poisoning can lead to serious health issues in these people.
Prevention Tips and Measures
Prevention is the most effective way to defend against food poisoning. You can significantly reduce your risk of getting this awful illness by following some basic rules and best practices when handling food. It’s important to know the appropriate treatments in case prevention methods fail.
The treatments for food poisoning can vary from natural remedies to surgical procedures depending on the severity and type. To ensure a speedy recovery and minimise long-term health effects, it’s important to know when to seek professional help and have a basic understanding of available treatments.
Additionally, to protect yourself and your family from foodborne diseases, it’s important to practice good hygiene practices including frequent hand washing, careful food storage, thorough cooking, and avoiding cross-contamination.
We have given below important prevention tips and measures; that individuals and food processing businesses should practice.
By following these guidelines, one can ensure the safety of the food they handle, store, and prepare:
1) Importance of Practising Hygiene in Food Handling, Preparation and Storage
When it comes to food safety, maintaining a clean atmosphere is crucial. Ensure to properly wash hands with soap and water before handling any food.
Furthermore, ensure to wash all utensils, chopping boards, and surfaces with hot, soapy water.
2) Safe Cooking Temperatures
A crucial step in avoiding food poisoning is cooking food to the proper temperature. To guarantee that meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to the appropriate internal temperatures, use a food thermometer. To destroy hazardous microorganisms, for instance, poultry should be cooked until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
3) Avoid Cross-contamination
When bacteria from one food item migrate to another, it results in cross-contamination. Use different chopping boards and tools for raw and cooked meals to avoid this. After handling raw meats or eggs, always quickly wash your instruments in hot, soapy water.
4) Proper handwashing techniques
The easiest and most efficient technique to stop the transmission of bacteria is to wash your hands. After touching raw food and before handling anything else, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
5) Food Storage Guidelines
Food quality can be preserved, and hazardous bacterial development can be stopped by preserving food properly. Food products that need to be consumed quickly should be frozen while perishable ones should be kept in a refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C). To prevent contamination, be careful to store raw meats apart from meals that are ready to consume.
Hope our expert blog helps organisations and individuals to keep food poisoning at bay.
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