Studies performed by the Public Health Agency of Canada show that approximately one in every eight Canadians gets sick as a result of domestically acquired food-borne diseases. While Canada does have very strict food safety procedures, it is important to understand that there are many precautions that should still be taken to prevent the spread of food-borne illness. This includes ensuring that hands are clean and thoroughly washed before and after handling food, refrigerating prepared food, ensuring that food items are fully cooked before consumption, and much more.
If you plan to pursue a food safety diploma, you will learn about the many causes of food-borne illnesses—here are three:
1. Bacteria and Viruses
Individuals who have had food quality training know that bacteria and viruses are the most common causes of food poisoning in the world. Examples include:
Salmonella is derived from a number food sources; some of these can include contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk and cheese, as well as raw fruits and veggies. Experts know that diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps and vomiting are among the symptoms of salmonella poisoning. Salmonella has the ability to cause serious illness in older adults, young children and infants, as well as individuals who may already be suffering from chronic diseases.
The most common sources of E. coli poisoning include the consumption of undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized dairy and contaminated water. Symptoms can include severe cases of diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and sometimes minimal fever.
Professionals with food safety training know thatlisteria is one of the few bacteria that can actually grow in cold temperatures. This means that refrigeration won’t actually prevent the growth of listeria, and it must be destroyed through the process of cooking or pasteurization. Common sources of listeria include deli meats, hot dogs, unpasteurized dairy, refrigerated seafood and meat spreads. Listeria poisoning can cause fever, still neck, confusion, weakness and vomiting.
Parasites are living organisms that live within other living organisms, also called “hosts.” Parasites can be transmitted through water, soil or direct contact with a person or animal that is infected. Some of the most common parasites include protozoa, roundworms and tapeworms. Sources of parasite poisoning can include undercooked fish and seafood, undercooked meat and raw vegetables that have been contaminated by animal feces. While symptoms of food-borne parasitic poisoning depends on the type of offending parasite, most cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, muscle pain, weight loss and more.
3. Toxins and Chemicals
There are specific types of fish and seafood which contain very high levels of the chemical mercury. And while most people are not affected by small amounts of mercury, if a developing fetus or baby is exposed to the chemical in the womb, its nervous system can be damaged. This means that foods containing mercury should always be avoided by pregnant women; some of these foods include shark, swordfish and tuna.
Toxins are produced by bacteria that contaminate specific food items, and this can in turn lead to food poisoning. While in some cases, food poisoning can be associated with natural toxins, such as those derived from various mushrooms, in other cases it can be caused by chemical toxins, like those found in pesticides. Experts know that some molds can also produce toxins which can cause food poisoning, while other molds have no harmful effects, like blue cheese.
How can those preparing food help prevent food poisoning?