Information on the Causes of Food Poisoning

Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor

Food poisoning is a common, usually mild, but sometimes deadly illness. Typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea that occur suddenly (within 48 hours) after consuming a contaminated food or drink. Depending on the contaminant, fever and chills, bloody stools,dehydration, and nervous system damage may follow.

It is the result of eating food contaminated with bacteria or other toxins. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, and generally start 4 – 36 hours after eating contaminated food.

While many cases are caused by bacteria, some cases can result from eating poisonous plants (some mushrooms, for instance) and animals (pufferfish). Food poisoning is not uncommon, especially during summer when food may not be kept cold enough to prevent bacteria from growing.

Causes of food poisoning:

Contamination of food can happen at any point during its production: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparing. Cross-contamination — the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another — is often the cause. This is especially troublesome for raw, ready-to-eat foods, such as salads or other produce

Poor personal hygiene, improper cleaning of storage and preparation areas and unclean utensils cause contamination of raw and cooked foods.

Mishandling of raw and cooked foods allows bacteria to grow. The temperature range in which most bacteria grow is between 40 degrees F (5 degrees C) and 140 degrees F (60 degrees C). Raw and cooked foods should not be kept in this danger zone any longer than absolutely necessary.

Undercooking or improper processing of home-canned foods can cause very serious food poisoning.

Since food-poisoning bacteria are often present on many foods, knowing the characteristics of such bacteria is essential to an effective control program.

Preventive measures for food poisoniong:

The first step in preventing food poisoning is to assume that all foods may cause food-borne illness. Follow these steps to prevent food poisoning:

Wash hands, food preparation surfaces and utensils thoroughly before and after handling raw foods to prevent recontamination of cooked foods.

Keep refrigerated foods below 40 degrees F.

Serve hot foods immediately or keep them heated above 140 degrees F.

Divide large volumes of food into small portions for rapid cooling in the refrigerator. Hot, bulky foods in the refrigerator can raise the temperature of foods already cooled.

Some self care tips:

Food poisoning can be prevented by thoroughly cooking food and practicing good hygiene.

A meat thermometer is a good way to ensure meats are cooked to the proper internal temperature.

Store uncooked food in a refrigerator or freezer at the proper temperature, and never defrost food at room temperature.

If food smells or looks bad, throw it away.

Be sure to clean surfaces such as countertops, cutting boards, plates, and utensils properly whenever they contact raw meats.

Don’t let cooked food contact any surfaces that may have been contaminated by raw food. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them raw, and buy only pasteurized dairy products.

Treatment :

People with food poisoning should modify their diet during the period of illness. They should drink clear liquids frequently, but in small amounts. As their condition improves, soft, bland foods can be added to the diet.

A commonly recommended diet is called the BRAT diet. The BRAT diet gets its name from the four foods it includes: banana, rice, applesauce, and toast.

Milk products, spicy food, alcohol, and fresh fruit should be avoided until all symptoms disappear. These dietary changes are often the only treatment necessary for food poisoning.

about the author