Food poisoning is an illness which arises from eating contaminated food including un-boiled milk. It is characterised by a feeling of being unwell, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pains, cramp and occasionally fever.
The condition is more used to describe the illness referred to above when the food consumption is at community gatherings such as parties, marriages etc. However it can also from eating in hotels or when contaminated food is sold inadvertently to people through stores /groceries/supermarkets.
Period of onset after consumption of the contaminated food varies from 1 hour to 28 days; depending on the organism involved.
Food poisoning is usually due to germs such as bacteria, virus or parasites. The commonest germs are staphylococcus, clostridium, salmonella, shigella, E. Coli and noro-virus.
The illness is caused by the toxins produced by the germs either outside or inside our body; this determines how quickly the illness starts.
The food can be contaminated during growth, production, processing, shipping and preparation; this preparation can include slaughtering of the animal, cutting into small parts which can become contaminated by the feaces of the animal.
There could also be “cross-contamination”, a situation in which the platform used for cutting poultry for example is used for cutting vegetables and fruits without thorough cleansing first.
Food can be contaminated by flies, by infected food handlers, or by food handlers whose hands became contaminated by touching items previously handled by infected persons and forgetting to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Suspect you have food poisoning if you develop vomiting and/or diarrhoea with severe abdominal pains a few hours after eating at a gathering, foods such as vegetable salads, fairly cooked meat/ poultry or canned food.
If the stooling and/or vomiting are severe, see your doctor immediately. If not, drink plenty of water during the period to replace lost fluids.
The following can put you at risk— age (more severe and commoner in old age and childhood), pregnancy and chronic diseases with reduced immunity. Complications include severe dehydration, kidney failure and death.
Food poisoning is common during festive periods.
You can prevent food poisoning by:
1. Being careful about what you eat at parties, avoid salads.
Be careful of what you eat at parties especially vegetable and fruit salads. One can never be too sure of method of preparation. Also avoid sachet water and un-bottled water at parties.
Eat only hot food, politely decline cold foods. Do not use ice blocks offered at parties to cool your drinks, you cannot be sure of the source of the water used for the ice blocks.
2. Practicing food hygiene
Preparing your food hygienically can save you from food poisoning, clean your work top before commencing any food preparation; after dealing with animal products (meat, poultry), clean the work top again before preparing vegetables and fruits. Cook your meat/poultry thoroughly and eat your food while hot. Cover your food if not ready to eat to prevent contamination from flies, rodents, cockroaches and other insects, other animals and dust.
Always boil your milk before consumption.
3. Always washing your hands with soap and water before preparing food
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you commence preparation of food; after dealing with meat/poultry, repeat the process before touching other food items.
4. Reading carefully the label on canned food
Read labels of canned foods carefully for expiry dates and constituents including any preservatives used.
5. Practicing personal hygiene
Always wash your hands with soap and water before eating, our hands can become contaminated from use of the toilets, handshakes, coughing, sneezing, touching animals/objects etc.
6. Washing your vegetables and fruits thoroughly
All vegetables and fruits must be washed thoroughly before eating. Start with warm water containing little detergent, in the case of fruits use sponge as well to scrub the fruits. This should be followed by washing with salty water and then rinse with potable water; make sure you rinse off all the salt. Then they are safe for consumption