Maintaining basic hygiene and hand washing are also ways of harm reduction

Vegetables should be cooked well before consumption

New Delhi, January 11, 2019: Recent research has revealed that washing tomatoes thoroughly will not get rid of Salmonella typhimurium bacteria, which cause gastroenteritis. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru have found that infection with S. typhimurium is a pre-harvest phenomenon and not a post-harvest problem as commonly thought.

Investigation has revealed that the bacteria enter the plants through tiny openings that form on the main root for the lateral roots to emerge. Contaminated irrigation water and open defecation are the main sources of this bacterial strain in the soil. This brings into light another aspect of applying harm reduction methodology at the source itself.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “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. While thorough washing and proper cooking of fruits and vegetables can eliminate most bacteria that cause food poisoning, there are some strains that are emerging as resistant. There is thus a need to ensure that this harm is reduced right at the source. 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 cause food poisoning.”

Some symptoms of food poisoning include abdominal pain, nausea, headache, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. These 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 4-7 days.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “The most common way to treat food poisoning is to drink plenty of fluids. The sickness usually subsides within a few days. However, it is also imperative to maintain hygiene with certain basic steps, the most important one being hand washing. Open defecation should be avoided, and fruits and vegetables be washed with clean water before consumption.”

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.

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