Growing up as kids, we were taught to wash our hands before we eat, always throw litter in the trash bin, and avoid eating food from unhygienic places. The reason behind training at an early stage is to provide education against diseases that are amongst the most expensive public health concerns.
The term Foodborne Illness describes health problems occurring from the consumption of contaminated food. The food that we eat has the potential to be affected by the likes of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Harmful toxins also contaminate food and contribute as a cause of food-borne illness.
The state of Utah observes thousands of food-borne illness cases each year. According to an estimation by Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), one in every six person in the United States each year is affected by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. These are the number of people who merely get sick, but around 128,000 people are hospitalized for having serious health problems, and 3,000 people die due to food-borne diseases.
With more than 250 different food-borne diseases identified and described, food-borne illness is a serious issue that affects a great number of people not just in the United States but all around the world. The right food-borne illness is difficult to identify because with so many different diseases, the number of symptoms are equally higher.
As a rule, since microbes and toxins enter our body through the gastrointestinal tract, reactions such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea are treated as common symptoms in food-borne diseases. Poisonous mushrooms, for example, count as one of the sources of contamination occurring from toxins.
Utah Department of Health directs individuals who suffer from the following systems to consult a healthcare provider:
- High fever
- Blood in the stools
- Prolonged vomiting
- Signs of dehydration including decreases in urination, dry mouth and throat
- Feeling dizzy when standing up
- Diarrheall illness that lasts more than 3 days
Reported Causes of Food-borne Illness
Several diseases have been identified as the common causes of food-borne illness. They include:
- Botulism. It is caused by bacterial nerve toxins that can cause serious paralytic illness. Symptoms relating to Botulism may lead to paralysis and death if left untreated.
- Campylobacteria. Caused by the bacteria Campylobacter, the bacteria is spread by the consumption of food or water contaminated by the feces of an infected person or through contact with an infected animal.
- Cryptosporidium. A diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites that are commonly found in drinking water and recreational water.
- Coli (STEC) 0157. Bacteria that resides in the lower intestines of warm-blooded creatures.
- Giardiasis. It is caused by a water-borne parasite which causes intestine infection through the consumption of contaminated water.
- Hepatitis A. A virus which is spread by unhygienic food preparation and handling. It leads to inflammation of the liver.
- Listeriosis. It is caused by the consumption of contaminated food. Listeriosis can occur from raw foods and unpasteurized milk and foods.
- Norovirus. The virus causes stomach and intestine inflammation. It is spread through an infected person or through eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Salmonella. A bacterial disease that infects the intestinal tract. It can occur from contaminated food such as raw poultry, eggs, beef, and unwashed fruit and vegetables.
- Shigellosis. It is a bacterial infection which affects the large and small intestines. Occurs from contaminated food or water.
- Toxoplasmosis. A parasitic infection that occurs from consuming undercooked, contaminated meat. Coming into contact with cat feces is also a cause behind this infection.
Animals are also carriers of such food-borne related viruses. People who work with animals around them or have pets in the home are strictly advised to keep their hands clean with water and soap if they make contact. Similarly, wild animals dwell in unclean places and have the highest chances of carrying viruses and infections. Avoid making contact with them altogether.
Foodborne illness can be prevented by cleaning and sanitizing the work area and cooking utensils. It is crucially important for restaurants to follow the best food safety practices that ensure the health of customers. Utah food handlers are to be trained under Utah food handler courses so they may uphold those practices and follow regulations imposed by the state itself.