Food borne diseases are a food safety and hygiene concern and everyone should be aware of them.
Things you need to know about Food Borne Diseases
Have you ever thought how safe is the food you are eating? If you don’t check the food safety and hygiene, it can be a cause of serious food borne diseases. Food borne diseases are spread due to consuming contaminated food. This can include anything from packaged food to home made food and beverages. If the food is not handled with proper care, it becomes home to several microbes, including bacteria, pathogens, parasites, viruses and other such microorganisms which grow on the food and make them contaminated. The symptoms can be mild to highly serious. In this article, we will discuss about the diseases which are spread by food contamination.
As per the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), every year around 48 million people suffer from food borne diseases in the USA. Food borne diseases are also called foodborne infection, foodborne illness or simply food poisoning. Food poisoning is a serious health concern. Apart from the microbes, food can also be contaminated to the presence of chemicals or same natural toxins such as poisonous mushrooms. Consuming poisoned food can lead to several lethal diseases which are not curable. So far, there have been more than 250 different types of foodborne illnesses have been reported. Out of these, most of the diseases are microbial infections, which are caused by bacterial, parasitic or viral infections. Others are due to the contamination of natural toxins (poisonous mushrooms).
How does the food get contaminated? – Reason of Food Borne Diseases
Food contamination can take place as a result of several practices from cooking, processing to handling. Lack of proper knowledge and avoidance is one of the biggest reasons due to which the food comes in contact with the microbes. Food can get contaminated even before it reaches to the kitchen.
- There are many microbes which are foodborne, living in the organs of healthy animals, such as in the intestines (E. coli). There are possibilities that the meat and poultry carcasses may get contaminated while slaughtering by contact with small amounts of these intestinal contents.
- In case of agriculture and horticulture products (vegetables and fruits) can be contaminated due if they are irrigated or washed with the water which has presence of human sewage of animal manure. Use of pesticides can also lead to contamination.
- Seafood such as oysters and other filter feeding shellfish can get contaminated due to the contact of Vibrio bacteria which is found in the seawater in nature.
- In case of poultry, the ovary of hen can get contaminated due to the Salmonella and thus the egg can be contaminated.
There are many microbes which can germinate on the food during the practices of food processing. These can be due to the touch by an infected person who handles or if the kitchen equipment, machines etc. are contaminated and not washed/sterilized properly. This can give rise to the germination of microbes on the food surface. Storing the food is also one reason.
Bacteria such as Shigella, Hepatitis A virus and Norovirus can come in contact with the fresh food if the person who handles hasn’t washed hands properly with antiseptics or other means. If the knife or other kitchen stuffs are contaminated, they can be the reason of spreading or if a knife is used for contaminated food and the same is used for fresh food, it can also transfer the contamination to the fresh food. Few microbes need a large colony so that they can cause food contamination. For this, they need proper environment, temperature and favorable conditions. The study says that one single bacterium reproduces itself by division in every half hour and this can lead to a population of 17 million progeny in the next 12 hours. So, if there is little contamination in the food, and it is kept overnight, by the morning, it will turn to poison. If it is kept in unfavorable conditions, the microbes won’t grow. Keeping food in the refrigerator avoids the bacterial growth, but there are few bacteria which can even grow in refrigerator such as Yersinia enterocolitica and Listeria monocytogenes.
Food can also be contaminated, if it comes in contact with insects and rodents such as cockroaches and rats.
Heat can avoid microbial growth. Heating the food at temperature above 75°C can stop bacterial growth and other microbial growth.
Clostridium bacteria are not killed by heating. It produces heat resistant spores. It can only be killed by above room temperature boiling.
Bacterial toxins are heat sensitive. Staphylococcal toxin is not killed even after boiling above room temperature. It causes vomiting.
List of Bacteria which cause food borne illness
- Clostridium botulinum
- Clostribium perfringens
- Diarrheagenic E. coli
- Enterohemorrhagic E. coli
- Enterotoxigenic E. coli
- Helicobacter pylori
- Non tuberculosis mycobacterium species
- Salmonella enteritidis
- Salmonella typhi
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Vibrio parahaemolyticus
- Vibrio vulnificus
- Yersinia enterocolitica
List of Viruses which cause food borne diseases
- Hepatitis A
List of Parasites which cause food borne diseases
- Entamoeba histolytica
(image source: www.fda.gov)