Food poisoning is any illness caused by eating food or drink that is contaminated. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites that can exist in foods at any stage, such as when they’re growing, packaged, shipped, stored or cooked.
Foods can be contaminated in many ways and certain foods like raw eggs, unpasteurised milk and juice, soft cheeses and raw or undercooked meat or seafood are more likely to harbour harmful agents. Foods made in bulk are also risky because one bad egg could affect your entire batch of omelets. Another risk for contaminating food is not washing the cutting board or your hands when preparing different food.
Food can also become contaminated when it is not prepared safely, for example if meat is under cooked or if the cook doesn’t wash his or her hands before handling the food.
Other reasons for food contamination:
· when food comes into contact with pets, flies or other pests
· when raw meat and ready to eat foods come into contact with each other
· when food is stored at unsafe temperatures; this allows bacteria to grow
· when fruit, vegetables and eggs are contaminated with human or animal feces
· when food is touched by someone who has gastroenteritis
Contaminated food of drink can cause food poisoning in people of all ages but the symptoms suffered depend on your age and medical condition. If you have food poisoning, your symptoms depend on the type of toxin that caused the contamination. Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may start within a few hours of consuming the contaminated food or drink and may last for a few hours or even days, based on its severity.
Symptoms may take days or more than a week to show up. This is called the incubation period. The same food can affect people differently. Some may feel sick after just a few bites while others can eat an entire plate and have no reaction.
The symptoms of food poisoning are uncomfortable and while there’s not much you can do to speed your recover, you can take steps to make yourself comfortable and keep symptoms from worsening. Keep in mind that your symptoms are your body’s way of getting rid of toxins so you can feel better.
If you have food poisoning, symptoms usually go away on their own without medication. However special caution should be taken for babies, children, pregnant women and the elderly and persons whose immunity is suppressed. Symptoms may cause other underlying effects.
Diarrhea and vomiting can really throw off your body’s balance of fluids and electrolytes and may cause dehydration as your symptoms may cause you to lose a lot of fluids. Electrolytes are minerals, such as sodium and potassium, that help your body function well.
Drink plenty fluids. Eating or drinking may be difficult because of the constant vomiting so start with ice chips or small sips of fluids to make things easier. Avoid food for the first few hours and give your stomach a chance to settle, drink water or broth, eat small amounts and choose bland foods like toast or crackers, get plenty of rest and avoid dairy, caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks like soft drinks, spicy and fatty foods.
Though food poisoning usually goes away on its own, call your doctor if you have any signs of dehydration such as dry mouth or extreme thirst, not peeing much or at all or dark, concentrated urine, weakness, dizziness, or a lightheaded feeling, especially when going from lying down or sitting to standing.
You should also visit the doctor if there is blood in your vomit or stool or if you have a high fever or unable to keep any food or liquid down.
Food poisoning is more common and riskier for people with weakened immune systems, infants and young children, pregnant women and the elderly.
(The above was submitted by the Grenada Food & Nutrition Council)