Foodborne illness

Food borne illnesses are caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. There are many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens. In addition, poisonous chemicals, or other harmful substances can cause food borne illnesses if they are present in food. More than two hundred and fifty different food borne illnesses have been described; almost all of these illnesses are infections. They are caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be food borne. (Center 1) Food safety is an increasingly important public health issue. Governments all over the world are intensifying their efforts to improve food safety. Food borne illnesses are diseases, usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food. “In industrialized countries, the percentage of people suffering from food borne diseases each year has been reported to be up to 30%. In the United States of America, for example, around 76 million cases of food borne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year.” (Geneva 2)

The most commonly recognized food borne infections are those caused by the bacteria Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli 0157:H7, and by a group of viruses called Calicivirus, also know as the Norwalk viruses. “Thousands of types of bacteria are naturally present in our environment, but not all bacteria cause disease in humans.” (Schmutz 1) Campylobacter is a bacterial pathogen that causes fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. It is the commonly identified bacterial cause of diarrhea illness in the world. These bacteria live in the intestines of birds, and most raw poultry meat has the bacteria in it. Eating undercooked chicken or other food that has been contaminated with the juices dripping from raw chicken is the most frequent source of this particular infection. Salmonella is also a bacterium that is widespread in the intestines of birds, reptiles, and mammals. It can spread to the human species a variety of different ways; through foods or animal origins.

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Some examples of food involved in outbreaks are eggs, poultry and other meats, raw milk and chocolate. The illnesses it causes are typically fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. In people with poor underlying health or weakened immune systems, it can invade the bloodstream and causes life-threatening infections. E. coli 0157:H7 is a bacterial pathogen that reservoir in cattle. Human illness typically follows consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with microscopic amounts of cow feces. The illness it causes is often a severe and bloody diarrhea and a painful abdominal cramp. In 3% to 5% of cases, a complication called hemolytic uremicsyndrome can occur several weeks after the initial symptoms. These severe complications include temporary anemia, profuse bleeding, and kidney failure.

Although their incidence is relatively low, their severe and sometimes fatal health consequences, particularly among infants, children, and the elderly. Calicivirus or Norwalk virus is an extremely common cause of food borne illness, though it is rarely diagnosed, because the laboratory test is not widely available. It causes an acute gastrointestinal illness, usually with more vomiting than diarrhea that resolves within two days. Unlike many food borne pathogens that have animal reservoirs, it is believed that Norwalk viruses spread primarily from one infected person to another. Infected kitchen workers can contaminate a salad or sandwich, which they are preparing, if the virus is present on the hands. Cholera is a major public health problem in developing countries, also causing enormous economic losses. The disease is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. In addition to water, contaminated foods can be the vehicle of infection.

Different foods, including rice, vegetables, millet gruel and various types of seafood have been implicated in outbreaks of cholera. Symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting and profuse watery diarrhea, may lead to severe dehydration and possibly death, unless fluid and salt are replaced. Some common diseases are occasionally food borne, even though they are usually transmitted by different routes. These infections include those such as Hepatitis A, Shigella, and the parasites Giardia Iamblia and Cryptosporidia. Strep throats have also been associated with being transmitted through food. Some food borne diseases are caused by the presence of a toxin in the food that was produced by a microbe in the food. For example, the rare but deadly disease Botulism occurs when the bacteria grows and produces a powerful toxin in foods. These toxins can produce illnesses even if the microbes that produced them are no longer there. Other toxins and poisonous chemicals can cause food borne illness. People can become ill if a pesticide is unintentionally added to a food, or if naturally poisonous substances are used to prepare a meal. Every year people become ill after mistaking poisonous mushrooms for safe ones they can eat. (FDA 1).

With all the different kinds of organisms and toxins that make up a food borne illness, it is safe to say that proper food preparation and proper cleanliness is important if we ever want this problem to be cleared up. Most cases of food borne illness can be prevented; proper cooking or processing of food destroys bacteria. Age and physical condition place some people at higher risk than others, no matter what type of bacteria is implicated. Infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk of receiving any pathogen. Some people may become ill after ingesting only a few harmful bacteria; others may remain symptom free after ingesting thousands. (Schmutz 2) Food borne illnesses are a serious problem. These illnesses are always a serious problem, but now, especially since the holidays will soon be here, it is even more important to take precautionary steps to prevent food borne illnesses.

According to the College of Agriculture & Home Economics the main things that will prevent food borne illnesses are proper food care and storage, sanitary conditions during preparation, and cooking to the recommended temperature. At the store there are several things that can be done to keep your foods safe. You should always keep all raw meats separate from other foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables. You can buy prepackaged foods to ensure they are sealed and there are no leaks. If you buy a product that is labeled, keep refrigerated; make sure it has been refrigerated in the store. Purchasing eggs, milk, and meat last is best. Make sure to get those products home and refrigerated quickly, especially in hot weather. You should always clean your refrigerator and freezer with a solution of warm water and baking soda. Again remember to keep raw meats separate from the other foods. You can do this by using sealable plastic bags to keep the juices from dripping. You should refrigerate all products that instruct you to. If the freezer’s power goes out, keep the door closed. Food can stay frozen for a couple of days if the freezer is full.

You should always wash your hands with soap and warm water before beginning to prepare foods, after handling raw meats, touching animals, blowing your nose, using the bathroom, or changing diapers. Also, be sure to wash the counter, equipment, utensils and anything else used in cutting and preparing raw meats. Before cooking you should only thaw foods in the refrigerator, under cold water, or in a microwave, do not just let the product sit on the counter top. Do not marinate raw products on the counter top, keep them in the refrigerator. Do not save or reuse breading or other coating mixes used to prepare vegetables or meats. When serving foods make sure they are served on clean plates with clean utensils. To be safe when caring for leftovers you should always remove stuffing before cooling or freezing meat or poultry. Bring all wet foods to a boil before reserving them. Put dates on the packages of the foods that way they will be used within a safe date. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in small, shallow, covered containers.

As always- if you doubt the safety of a food just throw it out, never taste it to check if it is still good. Make sure to cook ground meats to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit and non-ground meats to 180 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent E. Coli toxicity. You should also avoid unprocessed fruit and vegetable juices and un-pasteurized milk and milk products. Salmonellas can be destroyed in foods by heating them to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and keeping that temperature for ten minutes or a higher temperature for less time. Cooling the food quickly and then refrigerating promptly at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below can prevent Perfringens. Staphylococcal Poisoning, which is frequently called staph, can be prevented by keeping hot foods above 140 degrees and cold foods 40 degrees and below. High temperatures obtained only in the pressure canner destroy botulism spores in foods.

As you should now know the prevention of these food borne illnesses is easy. It is really just of a matter of taking the preventative steps and not being lazy (Archuleta 1). Some of the outbreaks of food borne illness have hit very close to home. Three children who became ill with E. coli during the 2001 Wyandot County Fair were transferred to Children’s Medical Hospital in Columbus. The three underwent kidney dialysis. An investigation into how they, and at least 17 other people, became infected continued. At least 20 confirmed and 44 suspected cases of E. coli have been linked to attendance at the fair. Investigators tested those who became ill to determine whether one or multiple strands of E. Coli was involved. They went through the animal barns in an effort to determine who owned steers and dairy cattle exhibited during the fair to see whether the source could be narrowed down to a single animal. Because the organism lives in the intestines of healthy cattle, preventive measures on cattle farms and during meat processing are being investigated.

The source was E. Coli found in the water at the fair (Bogart 1). There are many things happening around the world today with food- borne illnesses. This is a growing problem in the world. This problem can occur anywhere, including universities such as Tiffin. There are several different kinds of food borne illnesses. We have already explained all of these. Now we are going to go through how these types can affect a college student. A lot of college students eat at the school cafeteria. This can be a major factor in determining whether or not a student contracts a food- borne illness. This may be a step a student cannot directly control him or herself. If the employees of a cafeteria do not wash their hands properly they could cause an illness called Clostridium (Green 3). Unwashed hands and food that is left out for a long time on a steam table cause this illness.

Most food in cafeterias is left out in a steam table during the whole lunch, and some for longer. If a school keeps having sudden outbreaks of cramps, vomiting, and other side effects-this is an issue the school needs to address immediately. Students can help by making sure to report every illness-even if they think it is just the flu (many flu-like symptoms are that of a food born illness). Now let’s visit the dorm and home life of college students. Many students live in dorms at a university. A lot of their food does come from a cafeteria. Yet, some students have snacks and drinks in their rooms. There is another problem called the Norwalk virus. This virus is found in foods such as cookies, sandwiches, salads, ice, and raw shellfish. This virus is caused by hand to hand contamination from bacteria from incorrect preparation of food to unwashed hands. This virus is high in adults and older children. Many students keep cookies, sandwiches and ice in their dorms.

This can affect them directly. Students need to make sure they wash their hands before and after they eat. If a student is sharing foods they need to make sure their roommate or friend has properly handled the food. They could easily contract the Norwalk virus. The student’s best interest would be to not share foods that have been prepared by someone else. This would eliminate some of the factors. Although that can rarely happen-students need to be aware of the potential harm they could be on someone else if they share their food that they have prepared incorrectly (with dirty hands or wrong temperatures). Students can decrease their risks of contracting a food borne illness by taking the correct steps in preventing them. They need to make sure they wash their hands before and after they eat and when going to the restroom.

They need to take caution when buying food at stores: do not buy dented or swollen cans, do not buy foods that their labels have been broken or are not tight, and do not eat raw foods such as eggs or meat. A college student is at a risk for contacting a food borne illness more than they were years ago. Many food borne illnesses have increased because of the way Americans eat today. Processed food such as pre-made tuna salad can contain several viruses from the ingredients in them. A student who lives in a house and buys food normally-may buy quick on-the-go meals. These pre-made meals have many ingredients in them that can carry food borne illnesses.

Students need to take caution in buying foods such as this. They also need to take caution when buying fresh fruit and vegetables. These foods carry bacteria when not cared for correctly. A student is usually on the go a lot. They should never grab a fruit without cleaning it. They should not let fruit sit around for a long period of time. There are a lot of foods that can cause food borne illnesses. One can contact an illness from fresh or pre-made foods. The concept is that when you are on the go-you need to take the time out to inspect the food you are grabbing. Make sure dates are current, the color is normal, the temperature is normal, and it was properly prepared (washed or cooked). A college student could become very sick or even die from a small mistake. Students need to be cautious with their busy lives.

Work Cited

Archuleta, M. (n.d), Keeping Food Safe. Guide E-508, pp. 1-11, 10/7/2003, Bogart, Carol. Kids hospitalized, festival cancelled in wake of E. coli outbreak at Wyandot County Fair. 6 October 2001 Center for Disease Control, Food borne illness. 3 September 2003 “FDA Sees Surge In Food Poisoning Dietary changes, imports cause risk.” San Francisco Chronicle 18 March 2001: A8. Geneva, Sue. Food Safety and Food borne Illness. 25 January 2002 Greene, Alan. Food Poisoning. Dr. 7 August 2002 . Schmutz, P.H. Food borne Illness: Prevention Strategies. 2 February 1999


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