Food Poisoning

What is Food Poisoning?

Bacteria, parasites, or viruses can be possible causes of food poisoning, affecting one out of every six Americans annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many instances of food poisoning are minor and will respond well to home remedies. Cases coupled with persistent, severe, or worsening symptoms will require immediate attention.

Food poisoning occurs when food gets in touch with pathogens during the supply chain that goes from production to preparation and finally to the end user. If at any of the stages, for lack of hygiene, tests, or proper preventive measures, food is contaminated with microorganisms that carry a disease, the person who consumes it will absorb the germ.

The problem occurs more frequently if the food is undercooked and becomes more serious if the person’s immune system is weakened and therefore, unable to fight the pathogene.

What are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?

Some cases of food poisoning may present symptoms that are slower to appear, otherwise signs are usually fairly noticeable as the digestion process advances. It’s also possible to experience more noticeable symptoms several hours after consuming contaminated food, depending on the extent of the exposure and what else was consumed.

Symptoms include:

Food Poisoning Causes

There are a variety of conditions that can lead to a case of food poisoning. One of the most common of these is to eat food that has not been cooked properly. When certain foods are not cooked to the proper temperature, they may harbor a variety of contaminants. Some of the most common causes of food poisoning are viruses and bacteria that are in food.

Some foods may also harbor parasites. Tapeworms, roundworms and protozoa are common parasites that can contaminate food. There are also foods that can harbor chemical or natural toxins. While virtually any food can become contaminated, there are some that are most likely to cause food poisoning. Soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk, undercooked meat, raw seafood and raw eggs are all common causes of food poisoning.

When foods are made in bulk, a single ingredient that has gone bad can contaminate a large batch of food. Many people also get food poisoning from not taking the proper precautions when preparing food. A dirty knife, counter or cutting board can contaminate the food being prepared.

How is Food Poisoning Treated?

For mild cases of food poisoning, over-the-counter medications such as Pepto-Bismol and Imodium A-D often provide relief within 48 hours. Eating light can also help ease discomfort until the infection or virus goes away. Antibiotics, which may be delivered intravenously if a serious infection like listeria is involved, are used to treat more severe cases, which usually necessitate brief hospitalization.

Replacement of Fluids

The dehydration associated with food poisoning can result in the loss of essential minerals and fluids. Fluids may need to be placed with an IV if severe dehydration is experienced. Electrolytes like sodium and chloride can be replenished with a homemade mix of tomatoes, celery, red peppers, garlic, and other vitamin-rich vegetables mixed in a juicer or with pre-made drinks.

While e-coli is a well-known bacteria associated with food poisoning, it can be caused by nearly 300 different diseases or infections. If symptoms go beyond minor discomfort and include extreme stomach pain or cramps, dizziness, a high fever, excessive dehydration, or muscle weakness, it’s time to see a doctor.

Food Poisoning Prevention

All food that you eat should be washed and prepared properly before you consume it. Wash all foods and ensure that your kitchen implements and countertops are clean and disinfected before and after preparing meals. Wash your hands after coming into contact with raw foods.

Meats and seafood have specific temperatures that are required to kill the bacteria and other contaminants that may be inside them. When cooking, be careful to ensure that each part of the meat gets enough heat to make it safe to eat. In restaurants, never order your meat rare. If you are eating outside when the temperature is high, keep your food on ice and put it away quickly to avoid spoilage and the growth of bacteria.

Food Poisoning
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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
June 04, 2018