Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling - Topic Overview
Is this topic for you?
This topic is about many different types of
food poisoning. For more information on
E. coli and
toxoplasmosis, see the topics
E. Coli Infection and
Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy.
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is an
illness caused by eating foods that have harmful organisms in them. These
harmful germs can include bacteria,
viruses. They are mostly found in raw meat, chicken,
fish, and eggs, but they can spread to any type of food. They can also grow on
food that is left out on counters or outdoors or is stored too long before you
eat it. Sometimes food poisoning happens when people do not wash their hands
before they touch food.
Most of the time, food poisoning is mild
and goes away after a few days. All you can do is wait for your body to get rid
of the germ that is causing the illness. But some types of food poisoning may
be more serious, and you may need to see a doctor.
What are the symptoms?
The first symptom of
food poisoning is usually diarrhea. You may also feel sick to your stomach,
vomit, or have stomach cramps. Some food poisoning can cause a high fever and blood in your stool. How you feel when you have food poisoning mostly
depends on how healthy you are and what germ is making you sick.
If you vomit or have diarrhea a lot, you can get
dehydrated. Dehydration means that your body has lost
too much fluid. Watch for signs of dehydration, which include having a dry
mouth, feeling lightheaded, and passing only a little dark urine. Children and
the elderly can get dehydrated very quickly and should be watched closely.
Pregnant women should always call a doctor if they think they may have food
How do harmful germs get into food?
Germs can get into food when:
- Meat is processed. It is normal to find
bacteria in the intestines of healthy animals that we use for food. Sometimes
the bacteria get mixed up with the parts of those animals that we eat.
- The food is watered or washed. If the water used to irrigate or
wash fresh fruits and vegetables has germs from animal manure or human sewage
in it, those germs can get on the fruits and vegetables.
- The food
is prepared. When someone who has germs on his or her hands touches the food,
or if the food touches other food that has germs on it, the germs can spread.
For example, if you use the same cutting board for chopping vegetables and
preparing raw meat, germs from the raw meat can get on the vegetables.
How will you know if you have food poisoning?