Have you ever encountered a situation where you could not resist yourself from eating a food because it looks amazingly tasty? However, within a couple of hours of consumption, your stomach starts bloating and the feeling of nausea engulfs you. You find yourself taking frequent bathroom breaks and you have an urge to throw up all that you ingested. In such a scenario, you might be suffering from food poisoning.
You are not alone if you find yourself inflicted with food poisoning. Nearly every year, according to the American Gastroenterological Association, there are 3000 reported deaths caused by this illness. Meanwhile, 48 million people will be hospitalized due to the severity of the symptoms, putting one out of every six American at risk.
For certainly, the laws and regulations have ensured a thorough commitment towards hygiene. Food chains all over the USA are obligated to maintain certain health standards which entail the cleanliness of the outlet as well as using fresh raw materials. Yet, certain food items become a good breeding ground for harmful bacteria and virus.
Critics would argue that cooking essentially lessens the probability of bacterial replication as micro-organisms die when exposed to heat. Yet, without ensuring the cleanliness of food materials, the cooked batter is likely to become contaminated. The chances amplify when the items are kept under the fridge at low temperature. As a result, toxins are produced which would contribute towards food poisoning. Although all edibles are vulnerable to bacterial attack which release toxins, some happen to naturally contain chemicals that can utterly be harmful to the body. Studies have reported that food items like mushrooms, unpasteurized milk naturally contain a considerable number of toxins, thereby excessive consumption of these items should be avoided.
This article will examine the common causes of food poisoning. It will conclude on remedies that can be undertaken to reduce the chances of being inflicted with the condition.
It is pertinent to note that symptoms of food poisoning and the duration may vary from person to person. Duration of when the toxins first start expressing themselves in the body to how long the condition last in its entirety. Moreover, some signs of food poisoning will appear to be similar to other gastric-related diseases, thereby the advice of a medical professional should not be overlooked. Regardless, people with a weak immune system are more vulnerable.
How Food Poisoning Leads to Sickness?
When food is exposed to bacteria, virus or parasites then toxin level in the body may enhance. The three mentioned micro-organisms can start breeding at any stage: when it is packed, stored, transported or cooked. As mentioned earlier, certain food items stand at a higher chance of containing toxins, these include unpasteurized milk, eggs, soft cheese or uncooked meat. What demands attention is the fact that the micro-organisms put other edibles at risk e.g. one bacteria-filled egg can affect the entire batch thereby it is pertinent to keep the affected one out.
Moreover, there are external factors that can amplify the replication:
- Food kept in hot conditions: People who live in the tropical regions or areas where temperature usually remains hot for the most part of the year will find that their food items will quickly go bad in the outside conditions. An experiment was conducted by Professor Mike Thompson, Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Central Portland, London. He examined the effect on a piece of bread put in a controlled environment where the temperature was maintained to match the hot conditions as that experienced in warm summers. In the 90F condition, (the average temperature in England in summers) the bread went mould in the span of half hour. Thereby, the hotter the conditions get, the more likely are the chances of faster reproduction of micro-organisms
- The Use of Coolers/Mini Fridge: So far, our discussion above has been centred around the assertion that warmer conditions are conducive to toxins, yet, on the contrary, excessive use of coolers or mini fridge does not paint a fortunate picture either. When you go camping, you are likely to make use of these two things for storing your food items. What you might be overlooking is the fact that you are providing a good breeding ground for a variety of bacteria and virus. The optimum temperature for toxin growth coupled with uncooked meat placed inside the fridge become one of the major contributors towards food poisoning. This might be concluded as the reason as to why people return sick after long-haul trips.
Medical Scientists report that in 80% of the food poisoning cases, the victim is unable to trace the food item causing it. Which makes it even more complicated for specialists to detect the type of micro-organism responsible. Yet, in the remaining 20% of the cases, poisoning is caused due to the multiplication of Norovirus, Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.Coli. We will now examine each of the classified micro-organism briefly.
Norovirus: Over 20 million people in the US alone will suffer from acute gastro-illnesses caused by the Norovirus. This virus is the main contributor towards diarrhoea/vomiting and multiplies faster in cold condition ( also called the “winter vomiting bug”). You can get Norovirus when you ingest contaminated food. Uncooked oysters reportedly contain a huge amount of this micro-organism. Related symptoms may last for up to 8 weeks and patients are advised to avoid touching metal objects.
Salmonella: Belongs to the Bacterial family and infections caused by it puts around a million people in the hospital. 450 people on average die because they are unable to recover from the severity of the symptoms. Salmonella usually grows inside the small intestines of poultry animals. The faeces which are likely to contain this bacteria can contaminate the irrigation water. Crops watered with it will be exposed to toxins and hence initiate the cycle of food poisoning.
Campylobacter: Also classified as bacteria, Campylobacter is most likely to be found in uncooked poultry meat. When starts breeding inside the body, will cause diarrhoea along with other medical complications. Unlike, Norovirus, Campylobacter will replicate faster in warmer conditions and puts children and infants at a higher risk. The reason for the latter, being the weak immune system which is unable to produce antibodies for fighting these invading agents.
E Coli: Escherichia Coli (shortened to E.Coli) will commonly be found in the intestines of animals as well as on uncooked raw meat. Interestingly, some subtypes of E.Coli Bactiera will regulate the digestive process while other will cause complications like Diarrhea. This bacteria triggers the production of the toxin Shiga which is responsible for causing damage to the walls of the small intestine when it enters the body.
You can significantly lessen your chances of being inflicted with food poisoning if you thoroughly follow the following practices daily:
- Washing Hands with Detergents
- Washing utensils especially after cooking uncooked meat
- Having a separate chopping board for fruits/vegetables and poultry
- Having a separate fridge section for raw meat
- Keeping fridge temperature below 5C
- Cooking food properly
- Making it a point to see “expiry date” before the purchase of any food item