Food poisoning is a dangerous phenomenon.
A rampant word around us today is food poisoning. But how can food, expected to nourish the body, poison it at the same time?
Food poisoning mostly results from the consumption of contaminated food or water and it could also be called foodborne illness.
The cause of food poisoning is commonly due to consuming food contaminated by one or a combination of any of the following organisms: bacteria, viruses, parasites, their toxins or even chemicals but bacteria and viruses being the most common.
And whatever be the cause, it poses a threat to the human body as one of the requirements of food is for it to be safe for consumption. These organisms contaminate food at any point- from the processing to production to consumption. Hence, the need for awareness on the proper handling/cooking of foods.
Usually, the symptoms of food poisoning start manifesting within hours to several weeks after the ingestion of the contaminated food item.
These symptoms include: Nausea (the feeling of being sick), Vomiting, abdominal (tummy) cramps and diarrhea
Others could include lethargy (a total lack of energy), dehydration, aching muscles, fever and blood in the stool.
Although in most cases, these symptoms ameliorate in a few days even without treatment, but some people will still need to go to the hospital depending on the symptoms, the severity and how long it has been on or other health conditions.
Once you have any of these symptoms, try to take plenty of water and eat well. It might not be easy but take something no matter how small it is. You could also get oral rehydration solutions (ORS) from the pharmacist. This is recommended for the more vulnerable ones like the elderly and those with medical conditions. In all, it is still advisable to see a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
Since food can become contaminated at any stage during production, processing or cooking, preventing food poisoning begins with proper food preparation technique.
Food poisoning can be prevented by:
- Cooking food thoroughly (particularly meat).
- Sufficiently reheating previously cooked food.
- Not consuming food that has passed its “use by” date.
- Avoiding cross contamination of food (as this could enhance the spread of bacteria) for example, foods belonging to the same group should be kept together.
- Not allowing sick people touch foods.
- Making sure leftovers are refrigerated immediately so as not to allow bacteria and viruses have time for growth.
- Washing hands properly before and after handling food to prevent the spread of infection.
- Properly washing fruits and vegetables before eating.
- Cleaning areas used to prepare food. This deals mostly with chopping boards – and this really helps prevent cross contamination.
Remember, food shouldn’t be only nutritious but also wholesome and safe for the human body. Watch what you eat and how you prepare it – you might just be saving your own life and that of others.