Food poisoning, acute illness following the eating of foods contaminated by bacteria, bacterial toxins, natural poisons, or harmful chemical substances. It was once customary to classify all such illnesses as “ptomaine poisoning,” but it was later discovered that ptomaines, the products of decayed protein, do not cause illness.
The symptoms, in varying degree and combination, include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and prostration; more serious cases can result in permanent disability or death
Causes Of Food Poisoning
- Poisoning due to bacteria and toxins.
- Poisons of vegetable origin (natural food poisons) e.g. poisonous mushrooms, cottonseeds.
- Poisons of animal origin e.g. poisons fish, mussel.
- Chemical poisons accidentally added pesticides preservatives insecticides.
Food Poisoning Treatments
- Do not eat solid food while nauseous or vomiting but drink plenty of fluids.
- Small, frequent sips of clear liquids (those you can see through) are the best way to stay hydrated.
- Avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, or sugary drinks, if possible. Over-the-counter rehydration products made for children such as Pedialyte and Rehydralyte are expensive but good to use if available.
- Sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are fine for adults if they are diluted with water because at full strength they contain too much sugar, which can worsen diarrhea.
- After successfully tolerating fluids, eating should begin slowly, when nausea and vomiting have stopped. Plain foods that are easy on the stomach should be started in small amounts. Consider eating rice, wheat, breads, potatoes, cereals (low-sugar cereals), lean meats, and chicken (not fried) to start. Milk can be given safely, although some people may experience additional stomach upset due to lactose intolerance.
- Most food poisonings do not require the use of over-the-counter medicines to stop diarrhea, but they are generally safe if used as directed. It is not recommended that these medications be given to children. If there is a question or concern, you should always check with your doctor.
- The main treatment for food poisoning is putting fluids back in the body (the process of rehydration) through an IV and by drinking. You may need to be admitted to the hospital. This depends on the severity of the dehydration, your response to therapy, and your ability to drink fluids without vomiting. Children, in particular, may need close observation.
- Antivomiting and diarrhea medications may be given.
- The doctor may also treat any fever to make you more comfortable.
- Antibiotics are rarely needed for food poisoning. In some cases, antibiotics would worsen it. Only a few specific causes are improved by using these medications. The length of illness with traveler’s diarrhea (shigellae) can be decreased with antibiotics, but this specific illness usually runs its course and improves without treatment.
- With mushroom poisoning or eating foods contaminated with pesticides, aggressive treatment may include pumping the stomach (lavage) or giving medications as antidotes. These poisonings are very serious and may require intensive care in the hospital.
- Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential to avoiding food-borne illness. You cannot see, smell, or taste bacteria, which may be on any food.
- Follow these food safety guidelines to keep contaminants away.
- Safe shopping
- Buy cold foods last. Get it home fast.
- Never choose torn or leaking packages.
- Do not buy foods past their "sell-by" or expiration dates.
- Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods.
- Place refrigerated or frozen items in the shopping cart last, right before heading for the checkout counter.
- Safe storage of foods
- Keep it safe; refrigerate.
- Unload perishable foods first and immediately refrigerate them. Place raw meat, poultry, or fish in the coldest section of your refrigerator.
- Check the temperature of your appliances. To slow bacterial growth, the refrigerator should be at 40°F, the freezer at 0°F.
- Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days.
- Safe food preparation
- Keep everything clean!
- Wash hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry.
- Sanitize cutting boards often in a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water.
- Do not cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash hands, cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.
- Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator. Discard any uncooked/unused marinade.
- Thawing food safely
- Refrigerator: Allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing juices do not drip on other foods.
- Cold water: For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge in cold tap water.
- Microwave: Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing.
- Safe cooking
- Use a meat thermometer.
- Cook ground meats to 160°F; ground poultry to 165°F. Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops may be cooked to 145°F; all cuts of fresh pork, 160°F. Whole poultry should reach 180°F in the thigh; breasts 170°F.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
- Never leave food out more than 2 hours (or more than 1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).
- Bacteria that cause food poisoning grow rapidly at room temperature.
- Use cooked leftovers within 4 days.