Food poisoning: how to prevent it?
Published May 2, 2022 • By Berthe Nkok
Food poisoning can be caused by bacteria (Salmonella, E. coli...), parasites (especially water, fruit, vegetables), viruses (agricultural or sea products), toxins, or heavy metals (mainly lead or mercury).
Such infections are generally benign. However, they can become dangerous in some cases and can lead to heart or kidney complications and even cause death in most severe cases.
What is food poisoning? What are the symptoms? How can it be prevented?
We explain it all in our article!
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is often associated with the consumption of spoiled food, unusual or toxic plants or foods such as poisonous mushrooms, but also contaminated products (fertilizers, pesticides and other herbicides).
Bacteria are the cause of most food poisoning. They release toxins, which are substances that are harmful to the body. Foods most often affected are eggs, meat, sausages, fish, mushrooms, seafood, raw vegetables and dairy products.
There are many possible explanations for this contamination: exceeding the expiration date of the product, breaking the cold chain during storage or incorrect cooking. Heat promotes the growth of many bacteria, so even a dish left in the sun for a long time can cause food poisoning.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
Food poisoning usually affects several people sharing the same meal. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the person and the pathogen. The symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain
When diarrhea occurs in young children and the elderly, urgent medical attention is recommended. Bloody diarrhea, high fever, severe abdominal pain, swallowing problems, speech problems, constricted pupils, mental confusion, dizziness and/or fainting are also considered medical emergency and must be treated immediately. Finally, you should see a doctor if your symptoms are not severe but last for more than 48 hours.
How to prevent food poisoning?
Here are some tips that can help you prevent food poisoning:
- Always wash your hands with soap and dry with towels, especially after touching eggs, meat, seeds or raw milk cheese, as contamination often occurs through contact. It is also advisable to wash and dry all materials that come into contact with these foods: work surfaces, dishes and knives. Dishes, utensils and worktops should also be replaced or cleaned after each raw food preparation session.
- Have several cutting boards. You can assign a color board to each food category and use wooden boards, which are easier to clean. Remember to change them when they are worn.
- Assign a cloth or towel for hands only.
- Eat raw egg preparations without delay (chocolate mousse or homemade mayonnaise), as eggs are carriers of salmonella; they should be kept in the refrigerator for the maximum of 24 hours. Also check the food's expiration date.
- Always check the integrity of the packaging, as bacteria, mold and other micro-organisms can develop in the open air. Do not break the cold chain.
- Consume leftovers within 24 hours. Bacteria like medium temperatures, between 77 and 98,6°F. Do not leave meals uncovered for too long; if you do, transfer them to a container and let them cool down. Then cover them and place them in the refrigerator for a maximum of one day.
- Throw away fragile food that has been opened, for example raw egg preparations (mousse, mayonnaise, etc.), meat or fish tartars, shellfish, etc. What is not eaten should be thrown away immediately.
- Wash and disinfect the refrigerator once a month. It is also advisable to defrost food in the refrigerator.
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