Food poisoning is also known as food-borne illness caused by eating contaminated, toxic, and spoilt food. Infectious organisms such as bacteria, virus, and parasites and their toxins are the most common agents of food contamination. They can contaminate the food at any stage i.e. processing or production. Food can get contaminated in the home too if not handled or cooked properly. Food Poisoning symptoms can start within hours of eating contaminated food such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. More often, food poisoning is mild and can be cured without any specific treatment. But in some cases, people may need to visit a doctor.
The sign and symptoms of food poisoning generally begin within one or two days of eating toxic food or start at any point between a few hours to several days. The most common symptoms include:
In many cases, these symptoms will vanish in a few days, and people will make a full recovery.
Food can become contaminated at any stage during its production: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, or preparing. Certain examples as to why it can happen are:
Cross-contamination – A condition where harmful microbes transfer from one surface to another. For example, it can occur with raw, ready-made foods, uncooked food etc. Many bacterial or viral species are agents of food poisoning. Sometimes parasites are also responsible for causing food-borne illness.
Most of the time, food poisoning requires no medical advice. It can be treated at home within a few days. But in some severe cases, people may need to take doctor’s advice.
It is important to be hydrated by drinking plenty of water, as people need to replace fluid lost through diarrhea or vomiting.
Stick to small, light, and fat-free meals. Follow BRAT diet (banana, rice, apple juice, and toast)
Contact a physician if the symptoms are severe or when you sense no improvement in a few days.
ORS – Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) are advised for people prone to the effects of dehydration. ORS are readily available in pharmacies. You just need to dissolve them in water to drink. They replace salt, glucose, and other essential minerals which your body loses through dehydration.
If someone is suffering from food poisoning, try to eat simple-to-digest foods such as:
To prevent the stomach from getting more upset, try to avoid harder-to-digest foods such as:
The best way to avoid food poisoning is by maintaining high standards of personal and food hygiene while storing, handling, and preparing.
Cleaning – We can prevent the spread of harmful microbes by maintaining personal hygiene and keep working surfaces and utensils clean. Do handwashing regularly with soap or handwash, mainly:
People should not handle food if they are suffering from any kind of stomach illness, such as diarrhea, vomiting, etc.
Cooking – It is very important to cook food
thoroughly, particularly meat and seafood, to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. Most bacteria get destroyed by heating. Therefore cooking food properly is a preventive measure.
When reheating food, ensure it is steaming hot all the way. Don’t reheat the food more than once.
Freezing – Certain food needs to be stored at a
specific temperature to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying. If the food that needs to be cooled is left at room temperature, bacteria can grow and multiply rapidly. Cooked leftovers should be cooled quickly, ideally within a couple of hours, and kept in the freezer.
Cross-contamination – Cross-contamination is when
bacteria are spread from one food (usually raw foods) to other food products, surfaces and equipment. This may occur when someone touches another food, or when bacteria on your hand, surface, utensils, or equipment are transferred to the food.
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