Food Poisoning Alert!

Food Poisoning Alert!

Food Safety and Management System Practitioner

Thursday, September 17, 2020

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The lunch menu boasted scrumptious dishes which included a variety of chicken, pork, fish and vegetables, among others. One of the delectable chicken meals was purchased and consumed in all its deliciousness. It was extremely tasty the first time around but not so much after four hours of consumption; especially since issues such as nausea and stomach cramps accompanied it!

Symptoms such as nausea, stomach cramp, vomiting or diarrhoea after eating food can be signs of food poisoning, which is defined as sickness resulting from consuming contaminated food or drink. Food may be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites and, depending on the contaminant, the time between ingestion and effect will differ. On average the onset can occur between two to six hours. However, in cases such as yersiniosis, an infection linked to undercooked pork, symptoms may occur up to a week later. Raw or undercooked pork may also be contaminated with tapeworm larva; humans then become a host to this parasite. Ground beef that is contaminated with E coli O157 may have an effect five to 10 days after consumption.

Additionally, the severity of symptoms experienced is dependent on the type of contamination. Along with those already mentioned above, other common symptoms include upset stomach, fever, cold sweat and dehydration. In extreme cases, or for cases of comorbidity, impacts such as kidney failure, brain and nerve damage or death have occurred. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults 65 years and older, children younger than five years, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women are at a higher risk of food poisoning.

In Jamaica, stories are shared about drinking warm milk straight from the cow's teats; are we still doing that?

Some of the most common causes of food poisoning are:

Salmonella: Raw and undercooked meat and poultry, eggs, unpasteurised dairy products, raw fruits and raw vegetables

E coli O157:H7: Raw and undercooked beef, unpasteurised milk or juice, raw vegetables and contaminated water

E coli producing toxin: Water or food contaminated with human faeces

Listeria: Raw produce, unpasteurised dairy products, processed meats and poultry

Norovirus: Raw produce and shellfish

Campylobacter: Unpasteurised dairy products, raw and undercooked meat and poultry, contaminated water

Clostridium perfringens: Beef, poultry, gravy, pre-cooked foods and dried foods

Preventing food poisoning takes basic food safety considerations such as clean, separate, cook and chill.

• Clean — hands, utensils, food, work space.

• Separate — raw and cooked food must be kept apart; use separate knives and cutting boards.

• Cook — cook to the recommended temperature; be mindful that between 40F (4C) and 140F (60C) is the danger zone.

• Chill — refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within 2 hours; safely thaw foods in the refrigerator.

Another prevention step is to be responsible. Sunnyside-up or over-easy eggs may be a delicious menu option, but unless they have been passed under a broiler they may not be safe for consumption. In restaurants, beef may be sold by degree of doneness from rare (cool red centre) to well-done (little or no pink); consider that a well-done cut of beef can be just as tasty as a rare piece.

Whether local or international cuisine, food safety is always important; steps must be taken to prevent consumption of contaminated food or water. Consumers must be mindful of the possibility of food poisoning, the possible source, contaminant and symptoms; as always: When in doubt, throw it out.

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