Food Poisoning and How to Prevent it

Creative Diagnostics - Food & Feed Analysis

Food Poisoning and How to Prevent it


Food poisoning is also known as foodborne illness, which is caused by the consumption of contaminated food. Bacteria, viruses and parasites including their toxins, all these infectious organisms are the most common reason for causing food poisoning. The contamination of food caused by the infectious organisms and their toxins are likely to occur at any point of processing or production line. In addition, if people cooked or handle food incorrectly, the contamination may occur at home too.

Although food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of contamination, the most common symptoms include upset stomach, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever, which range from mild to severe. It usually occurs within hours of eating contaminated food. Fortunately, in most cases, food poisoning is mild and people can get better without treatment in a few hours or several days. However, some people need to be hospitalized, and some illnesses result in long-term health problems such as kidney failure, chronic arthritis, brain and nerve damage or even death.

What is the cause?

During the process of growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparing, food contamination may occur at any point. Besides, another reason leading to foodborne illness is cross-contamination which means the transfer of infectious organisms from one object to another. This especially troubles people eating the salads or other produce which are raw and ready-to-eat foods. They won't cook these foods, so the infectious organisms may be alive and not destroyed before eating, leading to food poisoning. Many bacterial, viral or parasitic agents could cause food poisoning. We have summarized a table which includes the possible contaminants, the time you may start to feel symptoms and the way these infectious organisms are spread (Table 1).

Table 1. Symptoms and Sources of 10 Foodborne Contaminants.

Who is at risk?

Although whether you get sick after the consumption of the contaminated food depends on the species of organisms, the amount of exposure, your age and your health condition. There are do certain groups of people more susceptible to foodborne illness. They are pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with immune system weakened from medical conditions or chronic diseases.

Is there a complication?

Yes, of course. Dehydration is the most common serious complication of food poisoning. When a person experiences dehydration, there will be a severe lack of water as well as essential salts and minerals. For a healthy adult, drinking enough water will help. However, for young children, older adults or people with chronic diseases or weak immune systems, hospitalization and intravenous fluids are necessary. In addition, for some specific organisms, there would be some other complications (Table 1).

How to prevent?

Here are some tips for the prevention of food poisoning at home:
Clean your hands, utensils and food surfaces frequently.
Separate raw food from ready-to-eat food.
Cook foods to a safe temperature. For example, cook ground beef to 71.1℃ (160 F), steaks, roasts and chops to 62.8℃ (145 F), chicken and turkey to 73.9℃ (165 F), seafood should be cooked thoroughly.
Refrigerate or freeze perishable food in time.
Defrost food safely.
Do not eat any food you are in doubt.

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