People love food. It nourishes bodies, provides energy, acts as a comfort and serves as a creative outlet. Fellowship and food go hand in hand, but there are times when we may regret having eaten the last meal. The symptoms of food borne illness can bring on a lot of misery.
Listeriosis is a food borne disease that affects pregnant women, infants, elderly people and individuals with weak immune systems. Caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, it is found in raw milk and raw milk products, raw meat, refrigerated processed meats, fish products and poultry. It is destroyed by temperatures over 45.6 degrees C. Prevention includes practicing good sanitation, consuming refrigerated foods in a timely manner, avoiding raw milk and raw milk products and thoroughly cooking foods. Listeriosis symptoms in non-pregnant healthy people include headache, fever and vomiting. Pregnant women who contract the illness can develop infections in the uterus or cervix, in turn causing miscarriage or stillbirth. Newborns exposed to the bacteria can quickly develop meningitis. The mortality rate is around 35 per cent. Individuals with symptoms should get immediate medical attention.
Botulism from food is most commonly associated with foods canned at home, but commercially prepared foods sometimes contain the bacteria. The root of the problem is inadequate processing of the food, allowing spore survival of the neurotoxin C. botulinum. Heating the food to 82.2 degrees C for 10 minutes will destroy the toxin. The most common foods associated with botulism are canned vegetables, meat products, seafood products, sausages, soups, ripe olives, tuna, spinach, smoked and salted fish, lobster, chicken and chicken livers. Consuming a very small amount of food containing the neurotoxin is enough to contract the illness. Symptoms include lethargy, dizziness and weakness, followed by double vision, difficulty speaking and difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms include breathing difficulty, distension of the abdomen and constipation. These begin to occur within 18 to 36 hours after consumption, but can take up to eight days to appear. Although the incidence of food borne botulism is low, the mortality rate is high if the patient is not treated properly.
The E. coli microorganism is found in foods such as minced meat, raw milk, homemade jerky, unpasteurised cider and juice, spinach, lettuce, dry-cured salami and untreated water. The bacteria are passed on through food handlers carrying the disease or through contact with the diapers of infected babies. Within one to five days after consuming the tainted food, symptoms begin. Non-bloody diarrhoea progresses to bloody diarrhoea, paired with dehydration and severe abdominal cramps. E. coli poses a more serious threat in young children, causing hemolytic uremic syndrome that can lead to kidney failure and result in death. The bacteria can cause adults to have deterioration of the cerebral nervous system, stroke and seizure. Preventive measures against E. coli include thoroughly washing vegetables, disinfecting counters and items where raw meat has been, thoroughly cooking meat and keeping cooked meat separate from raw meat.
Staphylococcus bacteria are very widespread, found on the skin, in the nose and throat, and in acne, pimples and infected wounds. Food can also spread staphylococcus. It is most commonly associated with sandwich fillings, tuna, processed meats, chicken, ham, milk products, cream fillings, potato salad and custards. The microorganisms get into warm foods, where they multiply and produce a toxin. Undetectable by smell or taste, it causes illness within one to eight hours after consuming the food. Symptoms include fatigue, severe diarrhoea and abdominal pain, and vomiting. The illness usually lasts no longer than two days and is rarely fatal, but very uncomfortable. Preventive measures against staphylococcus are keeping food clean to reduce the risk of contamination, maintain food temperatures of at least 60 degrees C or below 4.44 degrees C during mealtimes, and immediately refrigerate leftovers.
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