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Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is illness that results due to the consumption of food or drink which is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. Most people recover without the need for treatment. In most cases, the food that causes the illness has been contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella or   Escherichia coli, or a virus, such as the norovirus. The contamination of food can occur at any point beginning from growing, till processing and shipping of the product. Improper cooking of the food may also be the cause for contamination other cause can be when pathogens are transferred from one surface to another especially in case of ready-to-eat foods or raw foods. Since these foods aren’t cooked before consumption, pathogens are not destroyed and ingesting them may lead to food poisoning. This is called cross-contamination. Thus the contamination of food may occur at any stage in the process from food production to consumption.

References: www.cdc.gov
www.nhs.uk
www.foodsafety.gov
www.who.int

The symptoms of food poisoning may   begin at any point between few hours and several weeks   after eating contaminated food. They include:

  • Feeling unwell
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps

Other symptoms of food poisoning include:

  •  Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • A high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills

Reference: www.nhs.uk

Food borne illness are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria ,viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body  through contaminated food or water arise from improper handling, preparation or storage of food.  

Cross-contamination: Cross-contamination is a cause of food poisoning that is often over  looked. It occurs when harmful bacteria are spread between food, surfaces and equipment.

Most common organisms that cause food poisoning:

  • Bacteria-

-Campylobacter jejuni 
-Clostridium perfringens
-Salmonella species  . – S. typhi-murium infection
-Escherichia coli (E. coli )

  • Viruses (noro virus)
  • Parasites (Toxoplasmosis)
  • Mushrooms and toadstools: Dozens of species can cause muscarine poisoning. These poisons attack the central nervous system, causing partial or complete paralysis in severe cases.
  • Fish: Some fish, like the puffer fish, are naturally poisonous. A poison similar to that naturally found in the puffer fish can also occur in many edible Caribbean and Pacific species. It's called ciguatera poison, and it's produced by a tiny sea parasite called  dinoflagellate. This poison attacks the nervous system.
  • Insecticides: There are many types of poisons found in insecticides but the most dangerous types are the organophosphates, which are basically nerve gas for insects. Such insecticides are deliberately formulated to be less harmful to humans than insects, but these chemicals can be very dangerous to people if the insecticides are not used properly.
  • There are many other causes of food poisoning. These include wild nuts, leaves, flowers and berries, under ripe tubers, botulism, cadmium from containers, lead or arsenic from fertilizers, and acids and lead from pottery.

Reference: www.nhs.uk

Generally detailed history including signs, symptoms and details of food intake are used to diagnose for the food poisoning.Symptoms may include pain in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and signs and symptoms of dehydration (body does not have as much water and fluids as it should)  

Stool test: Sometimes stool test is done for detecting bacteria or parasites.

In most cases of food poisoning, symptoms can be relieved at home without seeing physician.

Oral rehydration salts: If diarrhoea persists, oral rehydration solution as ORS, should be drunk to replace the fluid losses and prevent dehydration.

Drink plenty of fluids: This is to prevent dehydration

If condition persists visit the doctor.

Reference: www.nhs.uk

Some do’s and don’ts to prevent food poisoning at home:

  • Wash hands nicely with soap and water before eating or preparing food.
  • Utensils and cutting board should be washed with warm soapy water and disinfectants.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
  • Keep raw foods (raw meat, poultry, shell fish) and ready to eat foods away from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Do not undercook foods. Reheat food rapidly until all parts of the food reach 75 degree C. Cook fish and meats at 145 to 165 degree F.
  • Food should be discarded if there is uncertainty in its quality or safety.

If one is suffering from food poisoning:

  • Avoid eating solid foods.Take bland and easy to digest foods.
  • Avoid alcoholic,caffeinated or sugary drinks.  
  • Replace fluids lost by diarrhoea or vomiting by drinking water or oral rehydration therapy. .
  • Don’t take antibiotics or anti-diarrhea medications before consulting a doctor. Certain types of food poisoning (viz. listeriosis) are treated with intravenous antibiotics.
  • Consult doctor if diarrhoea and vomiting persists.  

Reference: www.nhs.uk

  • CREATED / VALIDATED BY : NHP CC DC
  • LAST UPDATED ON : Oct 29, 2015

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The content on this page has been supervised by the Nodal Officer, Project Director and Assistant Director (Medical) of Centre for Health Informatics. Relevant references are cited on each page.