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by Wole

What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is a general term for health problems arising from eating contaminated food. Food may be contaminated by bacteria, viruses, environmental toxins, or toxins present within the food itself, such as the poisons in some mushrooms or certain seafood. If a person eats food that has been contaminated by these germs (also called microbes or pathogens) they begin to divide and multiply in the digestive system leading to illness. Most cases of food poisoning are from common bacteria like Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Botulism or E. coli.

What are the causes of food poisoning?
 Inadequate Cooling and Cold Holding. More than half of all food poisonings are due to keeping foods out at room temperature for more than 2 – 4 hours.
 Preparing food too far ahead of serving. Food prepared 12 or more hours before serving increases the risk of temperature abuse.
 Poor personal hygiene and infected personnel. Poor hand washing habits and food handlers working while ill are implicated in 1 out of every 4 food poisonings.

Other causes includes:
 Inadequate reheating. Leftover food must be held above 60oC until served. Otherwise, they can become highly contaminated.
 Inadequate hot holding. Cooked foods not held above 57oC until served can become highly contaminated.
 Contaminated raw foods & ingredients. Serving raw shellfish or raw milk that is contaminated, or using contaminated raw eggs in sauces and dressings, has often led to outbreaks of food borne disease. It is always safer to use pasteurised products.

What are the Symptoms of food poisoning?
 Nausea and vomiting,
 Abdominal cramps, Fever and chills
 Diarrhea (may be bloody), Weakness (May be serious and lead to respiratory arrest, as in the case of botulism and headache. Botulism is a very serious form of food poisoning that can be fatal.

How long does it take for food poisoning to manifest?
The symptoms from the most common types of food poisoning generally start within 2 to 6 hours of eating the food responsible. That time may be longer (even a number of days) or shorter, depending on the toxin or organism responsible for the food poisoning. Salmonella for example, develops in the intestine after the meal has been digested. It takes a few hours for the stomach to empty into the intestine, so a person gets ill usually about 4 – 6 hours after eating. Botulism on the other hand, doesn’t appear until 18 – 36 hours after eating, sometimes even 4 to 8 days later.

How can food poisoning be prevented?
Food poisoning is almost entirely preventable by practicing good sanitation and good food handling techniques. These include:
 Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
 Cook meat to the recommended internal temperature,
 Refrigerate leftovers promptly; do not let food stand at room temperature. Reheat leftover foods properly before eating.
 Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them.
 Purchase pasteurized dairy products and fruit juices.
 Throw away bulging or leaking cans or any food that smells spoiled.

Furthermore, other prevention are:

 Wash hands well before and during food preparation and after using the bathroom
 Sanitize food preparation surfaces regularly
 Do not place cooked meat or fish back onto the same plate or container that held the raw meat, unless the container has been thoroughly washed.
 Only eat foods that are properly cooked. If you cut into chicken and it looks pink and raw inside, do not eat it.
 Look at what you’re eating and smell it, too. Mould (which can be green, pink, white, or brown) is also often a sign that food has spoiled.
 Cooling and cold storage. Foods that require refrigeration must be cooled to 5oC as quickly as possible, and held at that temperature until ready to serve.
 Transportation. If food needs to be transported from one location to another, keep it well covered and provide adequate temperature controls.

To avoid food poisoning, people need to prepare, cook, handle and store foods properly!

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