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Understanding the Consequences of Foodborne Illnesses and How to Stay Safe

By the team at Speedoc,
July 03, 2023

Foodborne illness (food poisoning) is caused by consuming food or drinks that have been contaminated by a variety of harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances. Hence, there are more than 200 foodborne diseases that can occur, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.

There are different ways in which foodborne bacteria and viruses can be spread. It is either via human to human transmission or animal to human transmission.

Here are some fun facts on a few common pathogens that are notoriously known to cause foodborne illnesses:

  1. Yersinia: Causes diarrhoea and abdominal pain
  2. Salmonella: Usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal faeces

  3. Shigella: Infected people are still contagious for several weeks after their diarrhoea ends

  4. Campylobacter jejuni: One of the most commonly identified causes of acute gastroenteritis worldwide. These bacteria live in the intestines of healthy birds and are found in most raw poultry meats. 
  5. Escherichia coli: There are more than 700 serotypes of E. coli. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, a few can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhoea and vomiting.

The list of organisms related to food poisoning is not limited to the above-mentioned but here are the some general key pointers to keep in mind while cooking and/or consuming foods: 

  • Separate raw meats from cooked food.

  • Avoid eating expired food.

  • Ensure that raw foods of animal origin (e.g. raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk and raw shellfish) are cooked to a safe temperature before consumption.

  • Use clean water to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly as these products can also be contaminated when manure (animal waste) is used to fertilise the crops, or unclean water is used for washing the harvested produce.

  • Any food item that has been handled by a person who is ill with vomiting or diarrhoea symptoms, or who has recently recovered from such an illness, can become contaminated. When these food items are not cooked adequately, the illness can be spread to other people.

Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly

Symptoms of foodborne illness

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Headache

  • Dehydration

  • Muscle aches

  • Loss of appetite

  • Loose stools/ diarrhoea

  • Abdominal pain and cramps

Symptoms usually start to surface within hours or several days of eating the contaminated food. Most people have mild illnesses and usually get better with over-the-counter treatments but sometimes food poisoning may cause severe symptoms or complications.

It is also important to note that the onset and severity of symptoms can vary depending on several factors such as the type of pathogen, the amount consumed, the individual's immune system.

If you suspect that you or a loved one might have contracted a foodborne illness, it is recommended to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment immediately before it worsens.

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