The Most Common Culprits of Food Poisoning

Shivangana Vasudeva, NDTV  |  Updated: May 03, 2018 12:11 IST

The Most Common Culprits of Food Poisoning
There's one thing all of us will agree on, food poisoning is one of the most miserable experiences. At one point you are out for a happy meal and the next thing you know you're bed-ridden. All because you ate the wrong thing. While you’re dealing with distress, chances are you're not entirely sure what caused it. Meat products are still a gamble but there are others that can expose you to bugs that cause food poisoning.

You may have heard of bacterial infections like Salmonella and Campylobacter transmitted from raw food or E.coli from leafy greens. One of the most serious causes of food poisoning is Botulism Bacteria can contaminate the food during processing or production. You can help yourself by avoiding some of these riskiest foods when eating out.

Leafy Greens
Leafy vegetables are one of the most common culprits of food poisoning. According to a report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, spinach and lettuce are the top sources of food poisoning. Leafy greens are vulnerable to contamination because they may be eaten raw or lightly cooked, especially in salads. You should only wash them before cooking and that with cold water. If you wash them before storing, they may remain moist allowing the bacteria to grow.  Do not leave them outside; store them carefully in the refrigerator. "Use vinegar, salt water or potassium permanganate to clean your vegetables. These act as an antibacterial that inhibits the growth of bacteria," suggests  Dr. Ritika Samaddar from Max Healthcare Saket, New Delhi.
Raw Eggs
In many cases, food poisoning occurs due to undercooked or uncooked food items. Common bacteria Salmonella contaminates eggs even before they’re even hatched and therefore it cannot be detected easily. "You may be a fan of sunny side up, but when you’re not sure of where your produce is coming from opt for scrambled or hard-boiled eggs," says Dr. Samaddar. Try to avoid raw or lightly cooked eggs. Salmonella spreads from raw meat and poultry and can cause symptoms like stomach cramps, fever and diarrhea.

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Believe it or not, sprouts are notorious for causing digestive troubles. Sprouts are grown in warm and humid conditions. These conditions are ideal for bacteria to grow.They are also risky because they are often eaten raw or lightly cooked. Food-borne illnesses are mostly transmitted through raw or undercooked foods. One of the deadliest E.coli outbreaks that occurred in Japan 1996 was associated with radish sprouts which affected about 10,000 people. In case of outbreaks, the seed has been the source of bacteria that can enter easily through the shell or cracks. 

Milk, Dairy Products & Raw Juices
Staph food poisoning is associated with milk and dairy products like cheese. The staphylococcus aureus bacteria multiply in foods that are kept at room temperature. These toxins may be present without showing any signs of spoilage. Contamination may occur when food as not been kept hot enough or cold enough providing the perfect setting for bacteria to grow.

The common symptoms of staph food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. In more severe cases, one may experience dehydration, headache and muscle cramps. Unpasteurized or raw milk and cheese can also act as a carrier of bacteria. Cheese may be carry bacteria like Salmonella or Listeri. This is why doctors often advice pregnant women to avoid soft cheeses like brie or feta. Even raw juices can harbor E.coli and you must make sure that they are freshly squeezed before consuming them. 

According to Dr. Samaddar, "You can opt for packaged milk and dairy products ad it reduces the risk of being contaminated by microorganisms is reduced."

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Tuna and Other Seafood
Tuna is most likely to be contaminated by scombrotoxin. Scombrotoxin is a food toxin that is often associated with the consumption of fish. This typed of bacteria can cause serious headaches and stomach cramps. When fish is stored at a temperature above 60 degree Fahrenheit, it may release toxins that cannot be destroyed on cooking. Fish needs to be stored under cold temperature right after they are removed from water till they are cooked. Even when you buy fresh fish, make sure you place it in the refrigerator immediately.

Other seafood items like oysters and clams are usually eaten raw which makes them risky. Oysters can transmit deadly bacteria called norovirus which is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis. One way to avoid the risk is to smell them. If they smell of anything other than the sea, discard them. With seafood, freshness is most important. You should also throw away shellfish that doesn’t open on cooking. You can bake, boil or steam to reduce the risk of infection.

Dr. Samaddar also warns against thawing and then refreezing the meat again and again. This may expose it to bacteria. Once thawed, you should use it.

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When to see a doctor?
Food poisoning can affect you in different forms with symptoms ranging from mild intestinal discomfort to severe dehydration. In most cases, the symptoms may ease within four to seven days, but you should definitely see a doctor if they persist. If you experience any of the following, you must consult your doctor immediately –

1. Very high fever
2. Bloody stools
3. Uncontrolled vomiting
4. Prolonged diarrhea 
5. Extreme dehydration, dizziness and reduced urination

Comments"Since diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms of food poisoning you tend to lose a lot of water and electrolytes frm your body. These need to be replenished. So have plenty of fluids and not just water but others like lime soda, coconut water or ORS. Consume a good helping of probiotics like yogurt that help promote the functions of the gut bateria along with stomach soothing foods like bananas. You must avoid fatty foods and too much oil, sugar and spices as these tend aggravate the condition," recommends Dr. Ritika Samddar.

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