Food poisoning is a common illness caused by eating contaminated food. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever. In most cases, food poisoning is mild and goes away on its own within a few days. However, it can be serious in some people, especially young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Most Common Causes of Food Poisoning
The most common causes of food poisoning include:
- Bacteria: Bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning. Some common types of bacteria that can cause food poisoning include Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. These bacteria can contaminate food at any point during the food chain, from production to processing to preparation.
- Viruses: Viruses can also cause food poisoning. Some common types of viruses that can cause food poisoning include norovirus and rotavirus. These viruses can be spread through contaminated food or water, or from person to person.
- Parasites: Parasites are less common causes of food poisoning, but they can still cause serious illness. Some common types of parasites that can cause food poisoning include Toxoplasma gondii and Trichinella spiralis. These parasites can contaminate food through animals or their feces.
How Food Becomes Contaminated
Food can become contaminated at any point during the food chain, from production to processing to preparation. Here are some common ways that food can become contaminated:
- Improper handling: Food can become contaminated if it is not handled properly, such as if it is not washed thoroughly or cooked to a high enough temperature.
- Cross-contamination: Cross-contamination occurs when harmful bacteria or other contaminants are spread from one food to another. This can happen if raw meat is not kept separate from other foods, or if cutting boards and utensils are not properly cleaned between uses.
- Temperature abuse: Food can also become contaminated if it is not stored at the proper temperature. Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (4 and 60 degrees Celsius). This is why it is important to refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly after purchase.
- Chemical contamination: Food can also become contaminated with chemicals, such as pesticides or cleaning products. This can happen if food is not washed properly or if it is stored in containers that are not intended for food storage.
Preventing Food Poisoning
There are a number of things you can do to prevent food poisoning, including:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling food.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water before eating them.
- Cook meat, poultry, and seafood to a safe internal temperature.
- Keep raw foods separate from other foods.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly after purchase.
- Clean cutting boards and utensils thoroughly with soap and water between uses.
Tips for Safe Food Preparation
Here are some additional tips for safe food preparation:
- Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or under cold running water.
- Do not refreeze food that has been thawed.
- Clean your refrigerator regularly.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Do not eat food that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
The most common symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Stomach cramps
Other symptoms of food poisoning may include:
- Muscle aches
- Blood in the stool
When to See a Doctor
Most cases of food poisoning can be treated at home with rest and fluids. However, you should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea
- Signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, decreased urination, and dizziness
- Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius)
- Blood in the stool
- Symptoms that last for more than two days
Food poisoning is a common illness that can be caused by a variety of factors. However, there are a number of things you can do to prevent food poisoning, such as washing your hands thoroughly, cooking food to a safe internal temperature, and keeping raw foods separate from other foods. If you experience any of the symptoms of food poisoning, see a doctor right away!