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Food Poisoning




Definition

An imprecise term indicating an illness resulting from the ingestion of foods containing poisonous substances. True food poisoning includes mushroom poisoning; shellfish poisoning; poisoning resulting from foods contaminated with poisonous insecticides or toxic substances such as lead or mercury, and milk sickness (due to milk from cows that have fed on certain poisonous plants). Also, occasionally poisoning resulting from eating foods that have undergone putrefaction or decomposition or poisoning from bacteria. The actual number of food poisoning cases is undetermined (guessed at 2 million per year) because most people mistake the symptoms of food poisoning for intestinal flu.


Causes

Pathogenic and toxigenic organisms (those that can cause disease and those that can produce toxins), are silent killers because neither the taste, odor, nor appearance of the food indicates their existence. All types of bacteria can potentially become toxigenic.

The most common bacteria causing food poisoning, Salmonella, are part of the natural intestinal flora of animals. They are easily transmitted to others through human food supplies, knives, table tops, cracked eggs, and the hands of food preparers.

Most salmonella poisoning is contracted from contaminated foods; chicken, eggs, beef, and pork products. People who eat raw or poorly cooked meats are at greater risk of salmonella poisoning.

Cooks who first handle raw hamburger and then other foods will endanger others; those cooks who lick their hands or fingers after handling raw meat put themselves at risk for salmonella poisoning. Those taking antibiotics are also at greater risk for salmonella poisoning. Even though antibiotics can effectively treat bacterial infections, they can also promote infection by destroying good, competing bacteria and permitting the growth of bacteria that are antibiotic resistant.

Partly cooked eggs, ice cream, hollandaise sauce, eggnog, and Caesar salad dressing are not cooked well enough to kill salmonella bacteria. Certain strains of bacteria will not be destroyed in eggs that are poached or in eggs made over easy or sunny side up, etc. Salmonella has been reported in raw clams, oysters, and sushi. Also, sushi (raw fish) has been contaminated with a worm-like parasite called anisakis. This parasite appears as a tightly coiled, clear worm, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length. It commonly embeds itself in herring and other fish. A sushi chef can spot this parasite easily, so illness from sushi is a rare occurrence.

Lesteria monocytogenes is a bacterium found in packaged dairy products and a brand of chocolate dipped ice cream bars called Polar Bars. Fortunately, these products were recalled in time, and no illnesses were reported.

Staphyloccocus aureus, the second most frequent cause off food-borne illnesses, is commonly found in the nose and throat, sneezing and coughing on food can contaminate it. Before you eat from a salad bar, make sure that it is protected and clean.

One of the problems with eating in some restaurants and food service companies is that they often prepare large servings of turkey, chicken, beef, and many other foods that have been left out at room temperature. Bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, sometimes referred to as the "cafeteria germ", and salmonella often breed in food that has not been kept cold or hot. The bacterium Clostridium botulinum commonly inhabits the soil in the form of harmless spores. It is easily destroyed when frozen or heated properly. Of the various types of food poisoning, botulism is the most severe and affects the central nervous system. In botulism, toxins produced by the organism block the transmission of impulses from the nerve to the muscles.

Heating foods to 176 degrees F. for 20 minutes will destroy the spores. Beware of bulging cans (not dented), cracked jars, or loose lids on products. These can indicate botulism. This toxin has been found in asparagus, beets, corn, stuffed eggplant, smoked and salted fish, green beans, ham, lobster, luncheon meats, mushrooms, peppers, sausage, soups, spinach, and tuna.

A microorganism called Complobacter jejuni has recently been implicated in human illness, although it has been known to cause illness in cattle for some time.

Four other types of food poisoning include staphylococcal, campylobacteriosis, perfringens, and giardiasis. Staphylococcus produce a toxin that often contaminates meat, poultry, egg products, tuna, potato and macaroni salads, and cream-filled pastries.

Campylobacteria are found in poultry, cattle and sheep, symptoms appear 2-5 days after eating. Symptoms last up to 10 days. Perfringens are bacteria that survive heat and multiply when meat and meat products cool and when they are stored. This type of food poisoning can be very serious in the elderly.

Giardiasis is associated with consumption of contaminated water. It can also be transmitted to raw foods that have grown in contaminated water. Cool, moist environments are conducive to the growth of this type of microorganism. Recently a number of people in the Seattle area came down with a severe illness consisting mainly of diarrhea and bleeding from the colon. The bacteria causing this outbreak were found to be E. coli, a common type of bacteria present in the large intestine of all humans. But the particular type of E. coli that was responsible for this series of illnesses was a kind that had never been found in the U.S. before.

In California a recent epidemic involving about 250 people, resulting in 85 deaths was traced to the bacteria lesteria monocytogenes, which had contaminated a certain brand of cheese. Many who died were pregnant women and young children.

People tend not to associate their illness with food because it takes 3-5 days for these bacteria to produce symptoms.


Symptoms

Nausea, vomiting diarrhea, sometimes fever, and abdominal cramps lasting from a few hours to a few days. If poisoning from a public restaurant is suspected, notify the local health department right away so that others might be saved from possible food poisoning. Some types of food poisoning, such as botulism, are more serious, especially for the elderly and children. As many as 9000 deaths occur every year from all types of food poisoning. Many cases of food poisoning lead to chronic health disorders, such as reactive arthritis.

Symptoms of Salmonella poisoning can range from mild abdominal pain to severe diarrhea, and dehydration to typhoid-like fever. Outbreaks of salmonella poisoning occur primarily in warmer months. This poisoning can weaken the immune system and cause kidney and cardiovascular damage and arthritis.

Symptoms of Staphyloccocus aureus include: diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting within 2 to 6 hours after eating. These responses occur because the body is trying to rid itself of the toxins produced in the presence of the bacterium. For this reason it may be wise to induce vomiting. If the symptoms are severe or prolonged, see the doctor.

Those suffering from botulism may feel extremely weak and have double vision, droopy eyelids, and trouble swallowing in the early stages. The symptoms typically appear 12 to 48 hours after ingestion. Paralysis and death may result in severe cases.

Because Complobacter jejuni are present in the intestinal tracts of healthy cattle, turkeys, chickens, and sheep, they are spread to all parts of the meat during the slaughtering process. Fortunately, heat destroys them. Giardiasis poisoning symptoms generally occur within 1 to 3 weeks and include diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, flatulence, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. See the doctor! Diagnosis and treatment will relieve symptoms in most cases. If vomiting occurs, keep enough of the vomitus for analysis.


Nutrients

Garlic capsules, 2 capsules with meals, a powerful detoxifier. Potassium, 99 mg. per day, is needed for the proper balance of sodium and potassium. Acidophilus, twice daily, replaces essential intestinal bacteria. Fiber, twice per day, oat bran is recommended. Kelp, 5 tablets per day, contains needed minerals. L-cysteine, 500 mg. per day (all of the following are nutrients essential in immune function). L-methionine, 500 mg. per day. Selenium, 200 mg. per day. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), 5,000 mg. per day. Vitamin C plus bioflavonoids, 8,000 mg. per day. Vitamin E, 600 IU per day.


Herbs

  • TB
    • Lobelia, tea


    Recommendations

    Here are some fast, easy rules to help prevent food poisoning at home and while eating out:

    1. Keep food either hot or cold. Foods left at room temperature encourage rapid bacteria growth.
    2. Keep perishable products refrigerated.
    3. Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible.
    4. Cook meat, poultry, and seafood thoroughly. east should be cooked at a temperature of at least 165 degrees F.
    5. Wash your hands before handling food. Harmful bacteria are transmitted after diapering a baby or blowing your nose.
    6. Keep two cutting boards: one for cutting meat and the other for vegetables. This will prevent the transfer of bacteria from meat to vegetables. Wash your cutting boards with a bleach-water solution at least 3 times every week.
    7. Go home directly after grocery shopping, especially in warm weather. Store foods immediately according to labels.
    8. Clean any utensil that has come in contact with raw hamburger, poultry, or seafood. Utensils that have been used with raw meats should not be used to mix other foods until they have been disinfected. These measures will prevent the spread off harmful bacteria.
    9. Wash out lunch boxes and thermoses after every use.
    10. Throw away cans having loose lids and those that are bulging, rusted, bent, or sticky. Beware of cracks in jars and leaks in paper packaging.
    11. Reheat food thoroughly and bring to a rapid boil, if possible.
    12. Set refrigerator temperature at 40 degrees F. or below. Freezers should be set at 0 degrees F. or below.
    13. Wash kitchen towels and sponges with a bleach-water solution daily.
    14. Picnic foods, such as mayonnaise, salad dressing, and milk products, can be trouble if they are left in the sun or at room temperature.
    15. Avoid creamed foods, foods containing mayonnaise, and soups that are not kept at near boiling temperatures at salad bars. Do not eat at salad bars that do not look fresh and clean or have a protective glass.
    16. Giving honey to a newborn can produce a toxin inside the infant's immature intestine and can lead to infant botulism. Honey is safe for babies after age one.
    17. Mold commonly grows on spoiled food products. The following foods should be avoided if mold is growing on them: bacon, bread, cured luncheon meats, soft dairy products, flour, canned ham, hot dogs, dried nuts, peanut butter, roast poultry, soft vegetables, and whole grains. Also avoid any other cooked or raw foods covered with mold.
    18. Thaw all foods, especially meats and poultry, in the refrigerator.
    19. Do not stuff a chicken or turkey with dressing until you are ready to put it in the oven. The dressing can contaminate the poultry. Cook and/or store the dressing separately, and then place it in the poultry immediately before putting the turkey in the oven.


    Cautions

    Check with the doctor if food poisoning is suspected.

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