Food poisoning is a distressing and often embarrassing condition that can leave us feeling exhausted and unable to function normally. Often cases of food poisoning are isolated to single attacks. Sometimes large numbers of people fall victim to the symptoms of food poisoning due to poor hygiene and food preparation measures.
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Causes of food poisoning
Food poisoning is caused through the consumption of food that has been contaminated by bacteria, viruses or even parasites. Once these pathogens multiply, their levels can become dangerous to health. Once this food has been eaten, toxins can build up in the body causing the symptoms of food poisoning to develop.
How does food become contaminated?
Food may become contaminated through poor food hygiene, incorrect storage of chilled and frozen foods and the unsafe preparation of foods during cooking.
Many cases of food poisoning are caused through cross contamination from person to person or through incorrect cleaning of knives and cooking utensils. This is particularly hazardous when preparing cooked and raw foods when cross contamination can spread dangerous pathogens to other foods. Even poor hand washing is hazardous when preparing foods. Bacteria and viruses can multiply rapidly at ambient temperatures and be transferred to other humans and utensils, as well as foods.
Types of pathogens
Bacterial pathogens are some of the most common causes of food poisoning.
- Salmonella is a bacteria that is found in raw and under cooked poultry, eggs and dairy products.
- Campylobacter is found in many meat, dairy and poultry products.
- Listeria is found in pre-packed foods that are ready to eat and require no further cooking such as smoked salmon, pate, soft cheeses and unpasteurised milk products.
Viral pathogens include Norovirus which is responsible for causing violent and widespread food poisoning symptoms particularly in hospitals, colleges and work places where it is spread through cross contamination.
Treating food poisoning
Food poisoning should always be reported to a medical practitioner and a diagnosis should be obtained, so that effective treatment is started as soon as possible. Treating victims of food poisoning includes:
- Resting in bed.
- Drinking regular small amounts of clear fluids.
- Attempting easily digestible foods once symptoms subside.
- Taking oral rehydration salts to replenish those minerals and salts lost through vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Avoiding contact with others for at least 48 hours after symptoms subside.
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Date Published: 22nd March 2014
Author: David Brown