There are hundreds of different parasites, fungi, and bacteria found in foods around the globe. Unfortunately, these organisms can cause serious illness when foods are not kept at cool temperatures when raw, thoroughly washed, and cooked to appropriate temperatures. Around the world, food poisoning claims the lives of thousands of people. In undeveloped countries, the issue has grown to epidemic proportions.
Common Types of Food Poisoning
To help you stay safe and ensure you avoid health problems from food poisoning, you need to understand the most common types of food poisoning.
Salmonella is one of the most common forms of food poisoning in the US. It may be transmitted from contaminated eggs, undercooked poultry and meats, unpasteurized milks, apple cider, and fruit juices, unwashed raw fruits and vegetables, and even spices. The primary source of salmonella comes from animals with scales, such as fish, reptiles, and birds. Furthermore, many types of pet food may contain trace levels of salmonella as well. After ingestion, salmonella takes 12 to 72 hours to become active. The most common symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and pain, and fever. Severe cases of salmonella poisoning may result in organ failure and ruptured intestines.
Most strains of the E. coli bacterium are found within the colons of all living animals. In humans, E. coli assists in the final steps of digestion. However, E. coli in any other portion of the intestinal tract, or body, results in food poisoning. Additionally E. coli O157:H7 will result in the production of potentially fatal toxins when ingested and result in severe diarrhea. The most common symptoms of E. coli include liquid diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, and dehydration. In those with weakened immune systems, such as young children and the elderly, E. coli may cause serious illness, if not death. E. coli is commonly transferred from eating undercooked ground beef. However, it may exist on any food, especially fruits and vegetables enhanced through the use of fertilizer. Also, poor hand hygiene may contribute to the spread of the illness.
Staphylococcus aureus, most commonly referred to as “Staph,” is transferred from eating food contaminated with the bacterium. 25 percent of the population has non-active colonies of this bacterium on their skin and in their noses; however, the bacterium does not become a problem until ingested. In most cases, its transmission to food occurs in cheese and milk production plants. These foods routinely do not require cooking, which enables the organism to reach your plate living. Furthermore, salt does not impede its growth. Its symptoms include loose stool, vomiting, bloody stool, and abdominal pain. However, medical professionals can only diagnosis it through a stool culture for its toxins. The primary ways of preventing contamination, besides watching for outbreaks on the news, is to thoroughly wash hands and forearms when cooking, do not touch your nose while preparing foods, keep cooking areas clean and sanitized, and ensure foods are kept at proper temperatures.
Although not as prevalent today as compared to a few decades ago, Trichinosis, or Trichinella, is a form of food poisoning from eating undercooked meats. Trichinellosis occurs as the parasite infects the body. When undercooked, infected meat is eaten; the stomach dissolves the parasite’s cystic covering. The organism then matures and lays eggs in the intestine, which then hatch. The larvae make their way towards the muscles through the blood stream. The larvae become encased, or covered in a protective coating, and the cycle begins again. Effective treatment of Trichinellosis needs to start within one week of infection. Once encased, the cysts may remain in the body permanently. The symptoms of Trichinosis vary from no symptoms to other food poisoning symptoms. The adult parasite may be expelled through the stool, and diagnosis of the infection usually requires muscle biopsy for enclosed larvae and analysis of history of consumed foods. When in severe stages of infection, Trichinosis symptoms may appear as flu-like symptoms as well.
Always thoroughly wash raw fruits and vegetables, cook meats thoroughly, keep produce and raw meats separated, and wash your hands between cooking steps to prevent contamination with food poisoning. If you do not make sure you follow these guidelines, what you eat could kill you.