Food poisoning also known as foodborne disease, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Researchers have identified more than 250 food borne diseases. Bacteria such as, salmonella and escherichia coli (E.coli) , viruses such as, norovirus are the most common causes of food poisoning. Moreover, harmful toxins and chemicals also can contaminate foods and cause foodborne illness.
Infectious organisms or their toxins can contaminate food at any point of processing or production. Contamination can even occur at home if food is not properly cooked or handled. Symptoms of food poisoning can start within hours of eating contaminated food or they may begin days or even weeks later.
Food poisoning usually is mild and resolves without medical treatment. However, sometimes symptoms can be severe and even life threatening. Young children, older adults, pregnant women, people with immune system weakened due to medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney diseases are more likely to develop foodborne disease.
Watery or bloody diarrhoea
Abdominal cramps and pain
Loss of appetite
How does food get contaminated?
Food can get contaminated at any stage during production, processing, distribution or cooking. Food can be contaminated by :
not cooking food thoroughly (particularly meat)
not storing food correctly
leaving cooked food for too long at warm temperature
touching foods with dirty hands
Foods such as, raw meat, poultry, raw shellfish, unpasteurised milk, ‘ready to eat “ foods such as, cooked sliced meat, cheeses and pre- packed sandwiches are susceptible to contamination if not handled, stored or cooked properly.
Wash your hands with soap and water before and after preparing food. Wash utensils, cutting boards and food surfaces using hot, soapy water.
Keep raw foods separate from ready to eat foods in shopping cart, refrigerator, and meat preparation area to prevent cross contamination.
Cook foods to a safe temperature.
If you are not sure if the food has been prepared, served or stored safely, discard it.
Do not eat outdated packaged foods with a broken seal or cans.
Do not use foods that have an unusual odor or a spoiled taste.
When travelling where contamination is more likely, eat only hot, freshly cooked food. Do not eat raw vegetables or unpeeled fruit.
Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.
Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
Never thaw foods on the counter because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.
Four steps to food safety