With the slogan ‘From farm to plate, make food safe’, WHO aims to highlight the various challenges and opportunities associated with food safety this World Health Day, which is celebrated on April 7 every year.
Changes in food production, distribution and consumption, along with emerging changes in the environment and development of superbugs, pose new threats to food safety. Unsafe food can result in a number of health problems—diarrheal diseases due to food poisoning, viral sickness, reproductive ailments and even developmental disabilities and cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six Americans gets sick every year by eating unsafe or contaminated food. While the global threat to food safety is on a constant rise, it is best to be informed about the symptoms and treatment of food poisoning.
What Is A Foodborne Illness?
A foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, results from eating foods contaminated with microorganisms or chemicals. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are more than 250 foodborne illnesses.
While bacteria remain the most common cause of food poisoning, viruses, parasites, natural and manufactured chemicals in food products can also make people sick. The contamination of food can happen at any time between ‘farm to fork’ ie food production to consumption.
Food may be infected with bacteria when purchased. Raw foods, including meat, eggs, poultry, unpasteurized milk, shellfish and dairy products all fall in the high-risk foods category. Foods that are not handled or stored properly pose a higher risk of contamination, as bacteria breeds faster on them. The most common bacteria causing food poisoning are:
- E. coli
While few viruses actually make up foodborne pathogens, they are the leading cause of foodborne illnesses in the United States. They usually spread through the stool and vomit of infected people, if proper hygiene is not maintained. Viruses known to cause food poisoning are:
- Hepatitis A
Contaminated food and water are carriers of several pathogens that are known to infect food. They can be as small as single-celled protozoa to visible worms known as helminths. Common parasites infecting food are:
- Toxoplasma gondii
Foodborne infections can cause symptoms that range for mild to severe and are usually specific to the infecting organism. The common ones are:
If you have been suffering from the symptoms above for more than two days, it is best to talk to your doctor. If diagnosed with food poisoning, your doctor will formulate a treatment plan depending on the severity of symptoms.
- Oral rehydration mixtures to replace fluids and minerals lost through vomiting and diarrhea.
- Persistent diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Salt and fluids can be replaced through a vein (intravenous) and may require hospitalization in severe cases.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed in case of serious infections to kill the microorganisms causing the symptoms.
- Hospitalization may be required to treat more severe cases of foodborne illnesses such as a Clostridium infection.
Remember food safety is a shared responsibility and shouldn’t be ignored. You can ensure your family’s health by just taking small precautions and safeguarding what they eat. Keep your food clean, learn to separate raw from cooked, ensure thorough cooking and store food at appropriate temperatures. Eat healthy and stay healthy this World Health Day!