Eating junk food from the market is a common practice. The lack of time makes people do everything in a hurry, and it’s easy to skip meals.
Convenient and easy snacking has taken over our diets. Complications with junk food include the risk of developing diseases like diabetes, and may also lead to foodborne illnesses.
1. What is a Foodborne Illness?
Foodborne illness happens when we eat or drink something containing harmful pathogens namely parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Nearly 1 in 10 humans suffer from it every year.
Everything we eat contains some good bacteria that are advantageous for gut health. But it’s the not-so-good bacteria that we should be worried about.
As many people travel the world, they eat many different types of food. Well, sometimes, when your stomach is alien to certain foods, it can cause a foodborne illness too. Getting diarrhea and vomiting in a foreign country is one of the traveler’s worst nightmares.
Though it won’t last long, it will surely drain your energy and enthusiasm. Hence, extra caution should be taken when traveling.
2. Causes Related to Foodborne Illness
Foodborne illness is generally caused by consuming contaminated food and drinks. There are many sources through which harmful pathogens can be transferred to your body. These are all listed below.
2.1 Naturally Occurring Chemicals
We usually savor the flavor of raw sprouts thinking that it’s healthy. Well, no doubt it is healthy, but there’s a twist. These raw sprouts are often grown inside the soil and they most likely contain harmful microbes. Therefore, boiling or steaming raw sprouts should be done. This would kill the microbes and make them safe for consumption.
Corn and cereals are staple foods for nearly half of the population. Surprisingly, they contain naturally occurring toxins that cause long-term effects. Hence, moderate consumption of these products should be practiced.
2.2 Raw Meat
We often enjoy having sushi and a medium-rare steak. However, these raw products are the carrier of harmful bacteria that causes many foodborne infections and illnesses. Sometimes even raw veggies are not that great for your gut. These products shall be cooked properly for their safe consumption.
2.3 Contamination and Pollutants
We often see factories disposing of their waste in the rivers. This leads to contamination of the water. The same water is then transferred to the sea where there are fish. Hence, marine life becomes contaminated by the water. Foodborne illness is also caused by microbial contaminants in spices.
Moreover, the use of plastic is the greatest environmental hazard today. As a human being is completely dependent on the environment for survival, it is a health hazard too. The plastic waste is non-biodegradable and hence pollutes the soil. This can then contaminate the fruits and vegetable produce which in turn causes many foodborne diseases and illnesses.
2.4 Contaminated Water
Probably the leading cause of foodborne illnesses is drinking contaminated water. In most countries drinking water straight from the tap is prohibited. But when we drink water from any roadside stall, we don’t know what type it is. Hence, if a person drinks it, he’s prone to having diarrhea and other foodborne illnesses. Often, a person’s stomach can negate the bad bacteria in food, drinking contaminated water is just too much to bear.
3. Types of Foodborne Illnesses
There are many different harmful pathogens through which foodborne illnesses are caused. So, the illnesses are divided into different types based on it. There are nearly 250 types of foodborne illnesses in this world.
But a fact to be noted is that 90 percent of all foodborne illnesses are caused by some of the pathogens. The types of foodborne diseases based on these pathogens are listed below.
The most commonly known pathogen for causing foodborne illness is the Norwalk virus. It is responsible for nearly 5.3-5.5 million cases in a year. The reason for so many cases is how easily it can be transmitted. It can be transmitted from one person to another in a fraction of a second.
Even if a person has the Norwalk virus, they can easily cross-contaminate the food. It is even resistant to freezing as well as boiling temperatures and even some disinfectants. This is the reason why it’s so common.
Norovirus is “THE” illness that you often get after eating a meal at a restaurant. It causes discomfort in your stomach and results in stomach flu.
3.2 Clostridium Perfringens
The bacteria which rank just below the norovirus as the leading cause of foodborne illness is C. perfringens. It is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the whole world. Nearly 1 million cases are reported per year in the USA alone.
The reason for its prevalence is often related to the fact that they multiply too much in the “Danger Zone”. This is the temperature between 4.5 to 60 degrees Celsius. Most often we cook the food that we eat. This kills the C. perfringens bacteria inside the food.
The problem occurs when we eat the meat kept outside for so long like in a buffet. It generally cools down and thinking nothing else, we just eat it. Also, sometimes when we cook steak, it remains undercooked inside.
This also becomes a breeding ground for Clostridium perfringens. Hence, we should always check the inside temperature of our steak with a food thermometer.
Usually, a symptom of diarrhea is visible only after 12 hours and it can last up to a day.
3.3 E. coli
This bacterium is the most popular one. Escherichia coli bacteria is the most prevalent all over the news channel. It is constantly discussed and debated. However, most of the strains of E. coli are essential to the smooth functioning of our intestinal tract.
However, some strains are hazardous for humans. They can even be life-threatening. Generally, these strains are found in raw poultry, raw milk, and raw vegetables too.
There’s a strain of E. coli virus known as 0157:H7. It is the deadliest of all. It has a toxin called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). This toxin can directly affect your kidney and cause kidney failure. It can even prove to be fatal in some cases.
4. How Can You Prevent Foodborne Illness?
We can agree on one thing that nobody wants, foodborne illnesses. Even if it mostly lasts a single day, it surely does some damage. To prevent them, there are some simple preventive measures that you should follow religiously. These habits are listed below.
- Thoroughly rinse your hands under water for at least 20 seconds with soap. It is a non-negotiable practice. Nearly half of the foodborne illness could be negated if you wash your hands properly.
- Avoid cross-contamination of food products. Always keep raw meat separated from raw veggies. This can prevent pathogens from traveling from one food product to another.
- Never consume raw veggies, raw milk, and undercooked meat. They are literally heaven for harmful bacteria. Cook the meat till it reaches a safe temperature range internally.
- Always consume the cooked food within a few hours of cooking. Try not to eat old or stale food as far as possible.
- Avoid drinking tap water. Nearly every foodborne illness is related to drinking contaminated water. Always use a water purifier to kill all harmful pathogens. When outside, always go for packaged drinking water.
- Lastly, always wash raw fruits and veggies without fail. Wash all the cooking utensils with bleach powder too. Try to avoid using disinfectant spray as far as possible.
After analyzing the facts, it can be seen that foodborne illnesses can indeed be prevented. With adequate amounts of awareness, we can stay away from harmful pathogens.
Maintaining proper hygiene is the key prospect in leading a healthy life. Hygiene alone can make you resistant to many kinds of illnesses and diseases. Health combined with hygiene is a pathway to a peaceful life.