Food Poisoning

These people have never met each other, they may live on the same street or live on the opposite side of the world, they don’t know what each other look like, but they all have one thing in common: they are all living victims of food poisoning. Some people think that food poisoning was the worst experience of their lives. It is important to recognize that anyone who eats or drinks anything is at risk of having a food borne illness. Let’s concentrate on bacterial food poisoning and how it occurs, the common bacterial culprits and some precautionary steps to avoid becoming infected with bacterial food poisoning.

Food poisoning is a general term for illness or health problems that arise due to ingesting contaminated food. The main cause of food poisoning is bacterial toxins. Food poisoning occurs when a bacterium that is in food is prompted to grow and reproduce. Bacteria thrive in warm temperatures and an environment full of moisture. When the conditions are right, bacteria can grow from one to several million in just eight hours. The problem arises when instead of producing millions of bacteria, there is less but more toxic bacteria or there are a huge amount of bacteria that cause the problems inside the body.

For example, Jill comes home after school and she only has a few minutes to get ready for work, she is starving but doesn’t have time to make anything. There is a leftover hamburger that her roommates left out. She eats the hamburger and goes on her way to work. A few hours later, she starts to feel some discomfort. She wonders why her stomach hurts and then all of a sudden begins to vomit. This is a perfect example of how food poisoning can happen. The food was already cooked so it was warm, then it is allowed to sit out at room temperature for who knows how long. The bacteria can thrive in this environment.

Not only are there many ways that bacteria can infect people, there are also many different kinds of bacteria. There are an abundance of bacteria that cause illnesses and they exist virtually everywhere: on your skin, the soil, even the desk in front of you. Fortunately though, they don’t make you ill unless they are allowed to grow and infect you. Of the thousands of choices of bacteria, I will focus on two of the most prevalent that infect the food you eat: Salmonella and E. coli. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Salmonella accounts for approximately 30,000 confirmed food poisoning cases yearly, with 600 deaths nationwide.

Salmonella is found among the intestinal tracts of humans and animals; it produces an intestinal infection with symptoms arising 12 to 24 hours after infection. ” Infection occurs from contamination of ready to eat foods, insufficient cooking or improper cooking (like with the Hamburger example. ) Usually beef, poultry, milk, and eggs are most often infected with salmonella. If eggs are contaminated, using raw eggs in sauces such as Caesar, or eating raw cookie dough can cause illness. This also includes any mayonnaise based sauces; they are often left in a warm environment and will likely cause illness.

However, with more severe strains, bacteria can grow at refrigeration temperatures and so proper heating must be implemented. Another common bacterium to cause serious infection is Eshcerichia coli (E. coli). Symptoms include abdominal cramps and diarrhea and in more severe cases, cause Shiga toxin dysenteria (bloody diarrhea). Food sources such as sausages, unpasteurized juices and milk, dried (non-cooked) salami, ground beef and various vegetables have been known to cause outbreaks. Most E. coli doesn’t harm humans and can be killed by proper heating.

Enough about what the bacteria is, let’s see how to prevent all of this from happening. The best way to avoid becoming infected is to prevent it. According to the FDA, (Food and Drug Administration) there are four simple rules to avoid common bacterial infections associated with foods. The first one is to clean. Always clean your hands and surfaces. Don’t switch tasks without washing hands especially when using raw products. Make sure food is cooked to the proper temperature, if step one fails, this will kill off any remaining bacteria. Make sure to separate foods and don’t mix vegetables with meat until after they are properly cooked.

Lastly, either eat your food right after cooking, or refrigerate it. Bacteria cannot grow at cold temperatures. While at a restaurant, if your food seems cold, send it back, as it has probably been sitting out for a while. As previously stated, food poisoning is an illness that affects many people in the United States daily. After learning about what food poisoning is and how it effects human bodies, the two main types of bacteria and how to prevent food poisoning, one should be better informed about the dangers of bacteria and the safety measures that are needed to ensure that food is safe for others to consume.

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