Feeling sick, having diarrhoea, and experiencing stomach cramps, along with a lack of energy and weakness can also indicate possible food poisoning. Food poisoning occurs when you consume contaminated food. While it is not usually dangerous and people usually recover without any treatment, one must stay vigilant and avoid foods contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella or Escherichia coli (E. coli), or a virus, such as norovirus, says Britain's National Health Services (NHS).
Speaking with the OnlyMyHealth editorial team, Dr Shabbir Ahmed, Gastroenterologist, Apollo Clinic, Koramangala, lists the ways foods can get contaminated and its prevention.
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Four Types Of Contamination
According to Dr Ahmed, there are four main types of contamination. These include:
Microbial or biological contamination refers to the presence of harmful microorganisms in food, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. These microorganisms can lead to foodborne illnesses, causing infections or toxins that can be dangerous to one’s health. Microbial contamination can occur due to inadequate cooking temperatures, improper handling, cross-contamination, or exposure to unsanitary conditions.
This type of contamination occurs when objects like hair, dirt, metal fragments, glass, or any other objects that are not meant to be consumed, physically enter the food. Physical contamination is a consequence of improper storage or processing of food.
Chemical contamination occurs when harmful substances or chemicals enter the food, making it unsafe for consumption. This can occur due to the use of pesticides, food additives, or toxic substances, such as heavy metals. Chemical contamination can also take place due to contaminated storage, meaning when the food is stored in containers made of toxic materials.
Allergenic food contamination occurs when allergenic substances, such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, or wheat, are unintentionally introduced into food products through cross-contamination or improper labelling. It can trigger allergic reactions in individuals with food allergies or intolerances. Strict measures are necessary to prevent allergenic contamination and ensure the safety of those with food allergies.
Foods That Can Cause Food Poisoning
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some foods contribute to a greater risk of foodborne illnesses and food poisoning. These include:
- Raw foods of animal origin, specifically raw or undercooked meat and poultry, raw or lightly cooked eggs, unpasteurized (raw) milk, and raw shellfish
- Fruits and vegetables
However, the US Health Agency shares that while certain foods are more likely to make you sick, any food can get contaminated during the food production chain, including through cross-contamination with raw meat in kitchens.
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How To Avoid Food Poisoning
The CDC recommends a four-step food safety measure, which includes: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
Clean: From washing your hands and cleaning the surfaces of the kitchen to rinsing the fruits and vegetables, the CDC urges people to maintain cleanliness while handling foods.
Separate: The US Health Body advises against cross-contamination that is keeping raw meat, chicken and other poultry, seafood, and eggs separate to avoid the spread of germs.
Cook: Preparing the meal and cooking the food perfectly to the right temperature is one way to keep food contamination at bay.
Chill: This is the last step, where you need to refrigerate the foods promptly and properly.
Food poisoning is harmless but concerning. It can lead to various symptoms that can be discomforting. To prevent the illness, one must clean, cook and store foods properly and at the right temperature. In case you’re having gastrointestinal issues, make sure to visit a healthcare professional to get yourself examined.