• Though food poisoning is normally caused by bacterial infections, it can also be triggered by parasites and viruses.
• There are a number of misconceptions in the minds of people with regards to handling of the foods.
Food borne illnesses or food poisoning is a common occurrence and normally spread as one consumes contaminated food or water. Food poisoning or food borne diseases can affect anybody irrespective of age. It is also difficult to say where one contracted the infection since, the bacteria spreading the infection can be contracted anywhere. Most common symptoms associated with this condition include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other problems related to the stomach.
Food poisoning is generally caused by one or more of these major causes namely:
Bacteria: Bacteria are the most common cause associated with food poisoning. Some dangerous bacteria like E. coli, listeria and salmonella are considered to be the most common bacteria triggering food poisoning. Salmonella among all the other bacteria is known to spread the most dangerous form of food poisoning causing certain serious medical conditions apart from the normal symptoms. According to reports from the CDC approximately 1,000,000 cases of food poisoning, along with approximately 20,000 cases of hospitalizations have been caused due to this bacteria alone. Campylobacter and C. botulinum (botulism) are among the other two dangerous bacteria that can trigger some serious instances of food poisoning.
Food poisoning in a number of cases can also be triggered by parasites, although these instances are less heard off. However, in spite of the lesser frequency, parasites that cause food poisoning are equally dangerous as the bacteria. Once of the most commonly known parasites that causes food poisoning is known as Toxoplasma. It is normally seen in cat litter. Parasites can thrive in the human digestive system for a long time and yet remain untraced. However, people with compromised immunity levels and expecting mothers are at high risk of serious medical conditions when parasites attack their intestines.
Food poisoning is also triggered by certain viral infections. The Norovirus which is also called the the Norwalk virus, is responsible for causing over 19 million food poisoning cases every year and in some cases can also be fatal resulting in death. Other viruses that could trigger food borne illnesses include Sapovirus, Rotavirus, and Astrovirus. The Hepatitis A virus which attacks the liver is also a serious viral infection that is often spread through food.
What Causes The Contamination of Food?
Micro organisms or pathogens normally exist in all the various foods that we consume. However, as cook the food, the heat is known to kill these micro organisms before we consume the food. Hence, uncooked and raw foods are often associated with the risk of spreading food borne diseases as they don’t go through the detailed process of cooking the food.
Foods like meat, eggs, unpasteurized milk and other poultry byproducts are often known to be the common sources of food contamination. Water also gets contaminated easily with pathogens that can result in serious illnesses.
Myths Vs. Facts
Food poisoning is common and due to its wide spread occurrence there are various myths associated with this disease. While there are various causes that can trigger food poisoning in people, here are some myths that have been associated with this medical condition for long and it is important to know the actual facts for complete information about this disease.
#Myth1: Food poisoning is not a big disease. It just lasts for a day or so and then subsides on its own.
Fact: The fact is however far from this. Those who suffer from this medical condition, know exactly what this disease is all about. All those it is not a fatal disease, it does have some associated serious repercussions. Untreated and long term food poisoning can get fatal. Over 3,000 Americans die every year due to these food borne diseases.
#Myth 2: Your cause of food poisoning is generally the last thing you ate.
Fact: For a food borne infection or food poisoning to occur, the bacteria need some time to grow in your body. Hence, it is actually a wrong belief that what you ate last is the cause of your illness since it may not have even finished its gestation period. Contaminated food you consumed two days ago could also very much be responsible for your illness.
#Myth 3: The more use of chemical sprays can help in killing the bacteria better.
Fact: Chemical sprays or bacteria killing washes have a particular function, however the killing of bacteria in your food actually depends upon how you use these chemical washes. Thorough cleaning is the only way you will maximum bacteria in your food. It is important to not only clean your food but also the surfaces on which the food is being cooked as it is at equal risk of exposure to bacteria. Utensils and chopping boards also need to be cleaned thoroughly particularly when used for cutting raw meat.
#Myth 4: Fruits and vegetables with peel do not require cleaning as the bacteria can’t get in through the peel
Fact: The risk of getting an infection from a fruit or vegetable with peel is just as high as a non peel food. One can catch a food borne infection from an orange or a cucumber even when you peel and consume the same. Chemicals and bacteria can very well transfer from the peel or rind of the fruits or vegetables when curing them. Always make sure you wash any fruit or vegetable before consuming the same. Ensure you wash all the food you consume.
#Myth 5: Vegetarians cannot get food poisoning.
Fact: Dairy and animal products are often known as the prime culprits that cause food poisoning. However, fruits and vegetables are also equally risky when it comes to food borne diseases. Farm workers practicing unsafe ways of cultivation or handling the produce or using contaminated water for irrigation can be largely responsible for the spreading the food borne illnesses and the bacteria.
#Myth 6: Rinsing meat well is enough to kill the harmful bacteria.
Fact: It is important to wash the meat well rather than just rinse the meat under running water. Your sink counters can very well be a breeding ground for the harmful bacteria that could attack your meat as you lay it on the sink to rinse.
#Myth 7: Keeping hot food in the fridge can spoil it.
Fact: There is a wrong notion among many that hot food when kept in the fridge gets spoilt both in taste and the quality. However, the truth is that bacteria grows rather quickly in food that is left out for more than two hours at room temperature, and in summers it could take only about an hour. Health departments however recommend that the food should be refrigerated as soon as possible to avoid contamination from the various bacteria and germs.
#Myth 9: It’s fine to eat left out food as long as it’s heated up
Fact: Food left outside on the counter for more than 2 hours is deemed unfit for consumption as per various health standards. Bacteria like Staphylococcus and Bacillus cereus generate toxins in outside left food which can’t be destroyed even with reheating. Hence, to prevent falling sick with food poisoning completely avoid food that has not been stored at the recommended temperature.