Hand washing and food hygiene play an important role in preventing this condition
New Delhi, January 4, 2018: Recent government data has indicated food poisoning as one of the commonest outbreaks reported in India, next to acute diarrheal disease (ADD).
Statistics indicate that out of the 1,649 disease outbreaks reported till December 2017, 312 were due to ADD and 242 were that of food poisoning. The incidence is more in areas that have bulk production of food such as canteens, hostels, and wedding venues.
Food poisoning, also called food borne illness, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms — including bacteria, viruses and parasites — or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning. Infectious organisms or their toxins can contaminate food at any point of processing or production. Contamination can also occur at home if food is incorrectly handled or cooked.
Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “Food-borne illnesses or food poisoning usually occurs due to eating food that is contaminated with bacteria or their toxins. Virus and parasites can also be cause food poisoning. People have known for long that raw meat, poultry and eggs can also harbor diseases causing microbes. But in recent years most outbreaks of food borne illnesses have been due to fresh fruits and vegetables. Food poisoning can cause abdominal pain, nausea, headache, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. The most common serious complication of food poisoning is dehydration — a severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals. Symptoms may appear several hours to several days after eating tainted food. For example, Salmonella bacteria will cause illness 12 hours to 3 days after ingestion lasting about 4 to 7 days.”
It is important to differentiate poisoning due to preformed toxins or due to live organisms. While the first one will present within 6 hours and will have predominant vomiting the later will have predominant diarrhea and will present later. Both may be self limiting requiring no antibiotics.
Pathogens can be found on almost all the food that humans eat. However, heat from cooking usually kills pathogens on food before it reaches our plate. Foods eaten raw are common sources of food poisoning because they don’t go through the cooking process.
Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, Vice President CMAAO, said, “Anyone can get food poisoning. However, certain groups are more at risk. This includes anyone with a suppressed immune system or an auto-immune disease, pregnant women, elderly individuals, and children. All these are categories of people with a weaker immunity and therefore, easily susceptible.”
- Although the symptoms of food poisoning settle and disappear in about 48 hours, the following tips can help in coping with the condition.
- Let your stomach settle. Stop eating and drinking for a few hours.
- Try sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of water. When you’re urinating normally and your urine is clear and not dark, this means the body is hydrated enough.
- Ease back into eating. Gradually begin to eat bland, low-fat, easy-to-digest foods, such as crackers, toast, bananas and rice. Stop eating if your nausea returns.
- Avoid certain foods and substances until you’re feeling better. These include dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.
- Rest. The illness and dehydration can weaken and tire you.