Common Sources Of Food Poisoning
The national food safety organization revealed one in six Americans will become ill from food poisoning each year, which is over fifty million individuals. While everyone is susceptible to contracting food poisoning, the most vulnerable are the elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic illnesses. However, most who contract food poisoning will only experience symptoms from a few hours up to a few days. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps, headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, blood in stool, and joint and muscle aches. In other cases, you might experience dehydration, dry mouth, dizziness, blurry vision, weakness, and tingling. The source of food poisoning originates from many sources such as bacteria and viruses, cross-contamination, mold and toxins, and parasites.
Bacteria And Viruses
Bacteria and viruses are two of the most common sources of food poisoning, though bacteria leads due to improper storing of food. Foods most capable of growing bacteria at dangerous levels include dairy, meat, shellfish, fish, and poultry. If these items are not stored properly or kept at room temperature for more than the recommended time, they will rapidly grow bacteria and make individuals ill. Cold food must be stored at forty-degrees Fahrenheit or less, and hot food must be stored at 140-degrees Fahrenheit or more.
Generally speaking, food should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Also, raw poultry and meat must be cooked to the recommended internal temperatures for each particular food to stop the dangerous levels of bacteria accumulated during cooking preparation. When food is undercooked, you will become ill. Some viruses are also present in food and will make you sick such as some caliciviruses, Norwalk virus, norovirus, hepatitis A, and rotavirus.
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Food handling and cross-contamination is another common origin of food poisoning. Most individuals are familiar with such contamination at home such as touching raw meat and other foods without washing your hands first. You might also do so by cutting raw meat on a cutting board followed by cutting other foods on the same cutting board, again, without first washing the cutting board. Sadly, this type of contamination can happen at any point during the supply chain process. It can occur at the processing facility, during transport, at the supermarket, in a restaurant, at a school and many other places. The best prevention methods are to wash your hands regularly, particularly when handling raw meat and poultry, and always washing food like fruits and vegetables before eating.
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Mold And Toxins
It is important to note not all mold in food is bad; however, certain types of mold in food can be quite harmful. It is easy to throw food away when the entire food item or dish has been overcome with mold. However, should you throw out bread, cheese, or fruit with just a little mold on it? The short answer is yes. Even if you only see a bit of mold on your food, chances are the root of the mold is much more widespread and deeper into the food item than the visible mold. In some circumstances, poisonous toxins may have developed throughout the food. Because you cannot know one way or another by looking at it, the best solution is to throw it out. Natural toxins, commonly found in pufferfish and certain mushrooms, are also dangerous, as well as chemical toxins, such as pesticides.
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Out of all the sources of food poisoning, parasites often sound the scariest; however, this type of food poisoning is the least common. They are most frequently consumed through untreated water, such as in developing countries, or water consumed from contaminated bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and streams. They also exist within some contaminated foods and the digestive tracts of some animals. A parasite exists in a few forms including a single-celled organism and a tapeworm that can live within a human for up to thirty years. If you contract a tapeworm, you will likely have to take oral medication to eliminate it.
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Food allergens have a way of mimicking symptoms that are quite similar to food poisoning. Some allergic reactions are severe such as an anaphylactic shock, which is life threatening if not treated immediately, whereas others are more subtle. Some signs of mild allergic reactions mimic food poisoning symptoms, and others are more unique to allergens. These signs include abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, hives, itching, nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, and swelling of the face, throat, lips, or tongue. These symptoms will develop relatively quickly from just a few minutes to a few hours. Some foods that typically trigger these symptoms are shellfish, peanuts, fish, cow’s milk, and soy. Fortunately, the symptoms typically disappear within a few hours. Unfortunately, those less fortunate can have long-lasting effects such as brain damage, kidney failure, and death.