Contamination of food due to bacteria, viruses, or toxic contaminants leads to food poisoning. It is a common health condition experienced by children and adults.
Food poisoning is caused due to accidental consumption of contaminated foodstuff. Although children are more susceptible to this condition, adults can also contract it. It is one of the major types of gastrointestinal diseases, which can be mild or even fatal. Its causes are differentiated into various categories.
What Causes Food Poisoning
As mentioned above, along with bacteria, viruses, and parasites, unintentional intake of other toxic substances can also lead to food poisoning.
Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Botulism, Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus, Clostridium, etc., are the common types of bacteria that can cause infection. Botulism occurs due to consumption of foods containing botulin, like sea foods, green beans, and beets. These bacteria are usually found in foods like meat, poultry, milk products, processed foods, cheese, etc.
Noroviruses, Rotavirus, etc., are viruses found mainly in seafood and processed food.
The common parasites that cause infection are protozoa, roundworms, and tapeworms. Along with these, micro-organisms that are not visible to the naked eye can also lead to this disease. Parasites are mostly found in meats, seafood, and exotic foods. However, parasitic food poisoning is rare as compared to other types.
Toxic substances found in foods like artificial flavorings and sweeteners, and certain exotic foods like mushroom, barracuda, seafood, etc., can be harmful. Pesticides sprayed on fruits and vegetables can also cause this infection.
Contamination of foods can occur at different levels like preparing, storing, transporting, etc., and hence, tracing the exact cause can be difficult. Secondly, different types of parasites enter the human body through different food sources. Food poisoning can be caused due to the following reasons.
- Consuming contaminated/infected food.
- Consuming food that is stale, uncooked, left in the open for a long time, or is not covered.
- Consuming dry meat or fruits and vegetables that are not washed.
- Consuming processed foodstuffs past their expiry date.
- Meat/seafood is purchased from unknown unhygienic slaughter houses.
- Water used for cooking can be contaminated.
- The cook can be suffering from an infectious disease.
- The cook/food server may have unhygienic habits/may not follow cleanliness.
- Utensils and cutlery used for cooking may be contaminated.
- Animals/pets/rodents coming in contact with food.
- Food is not boiled/cooked/thawed properly.
The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, stomach cramps, dehydration, etc. Minor symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medicines or home remedies. On the other hand, in severe cases, a person can become unconscious due to dehydration, which can also be fatal.
Although you may take the utmost care, food poisoning can also occur due to consumption of packaged and processed foods. Therefore, it is advisable to consume as much fresh and homemade food as possible. Secondly, if eating out, avoid going for exotic foods like exotic cheeses, certain types of mushroom, smoked seafood, etc., if you are unsure about the food quality.
Food poisoning can be prevented by following healthy food habits and proper measures of cleanliness and hygiene. Lastly, note that it is wise to eat at good places when eating outside in order to reduce the risk of infection to a great extent. Take care!