Consuming contaminated food can lead to foodborne illness. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and death. Typical symptoms of foodborne illness are an upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. The causes of foodborne illness are divided into 3 categories: biological hazards, chemical hazards, physical hazards. This article will particularly address bacterial foodborne illness whose cause falls into the biological hazard.
What are bacteria?
Bacteria are single-celled organisms which multiply and increase in number by cell division. Under appropriate environmental conditions, bacteria can grow very quickly. The conditions that affect bacterial growth are the food itself, acidity, time, temperature, oxygen, and moisture. Most bacteria need nutrients to survive and the food is a great source of nutrient for them. Bacteria grow best in food that is neutral to slightly acidic (acidity is measured by pH). Bacteria need time to grow and they grow rapidly between 5°C and 60°C. Bacterial growth decrease at temperatures below 5°C and limited at temperatures above 60°C. Some bacteria require oxygen to grow, some grow when there is no oxygen, and some can grow with or without oxygen. Bacteria will grow when food and water are available.
Keys to safer food
There are five keys tips to keep food safe. They are keeping clean, separating raw and cooked, cooking thoroughly, keeping food at safe temperatures, and using safe water and raw materials.
- Wash your hands regularly, after going to the toilet, before handling food and especially during food preparation.
- Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation.
- Keep insects, pests and other animals away from kitchen areas and food.
Separate raw and cooked
- Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods
- Use separate equipment and tools such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods
- Use containers to separate raw and cooked foods.
- Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood
- Boil soups and stews to make sure that they have reached 70°C. Make sure that juices from meat and poultry are clear, not pink. It is the best to have a thermometer
- Reheat cooked food thoroughly.
Keep food at safe temperatures
- 2 hours is the longest time to leave cooked food at room temperature.
- Refrigerate all cooked and perishable food (ideally below 5°C).
- Keep cooked food hot (more than 60°C) prior to serving.
- Do not store food too long even in the refrigerator.
- Do not defrost frozen food at room temperature.
Use safe water and raw materials
- Use safe water or treat it to make it safe.
- Select fresh and healthy foods.
- Choose foods processed for safety.
- Wash fruits and vegetables.
- Do not use food beyond its expiry date.
Strictly following these keys above will keep you away from bacterial foodborne illness.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: October 10, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Causes and Prevention of Foodborne Illness. http://web.uri.edu/foodsafety/cause-and-prevention-of-foodborne-illness/. Accessed Octorber 6, 2016.
Prevention of Foodborne Disease: Five Keys to Safer Food. http://www.who.int/topics/food_safety/flyer_keys_en.pdf. Accessed Octorber 6, 2016.