Food poisoning, also known as foodborne illness, is caused by consuming unsafe food contaminated by bacteria, parasites, viruses, chemicals, or other agents. According to the World Health Organization, unsafe food is responsible for 600 million cases of food poisoning and 420,000 deaths every year worldwide. A boom in the severity of food poisoning cases may be attributed to globalization and the active food trade among countries.
While anyone can get food poisoning, some groups are more susceptible to getting sick and have more severe cases. These are:
• People who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body's ability to fight germs and sickness
• Adults aged 65 and older
• Pregnant women
• Children younger than 5 years
The symptoms of food poisoning can range from mild to very serious and may take some time to appear - from a few hours to several days. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common of them are:
• Upset stomach
• Stomach cramps
Fortunately, food poisoning can still be prevented and avoided. Protect yourself and your loved ones from food poisoning by following the 4 simple steps of food safety — Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
1. CLEAN: Wash your hands properly before handling food and often during food preparation. Using soap and water and scrubbing for 20 seconds during handwashing would reduce the chances of toxins and pathogens entering the body through the mouth, eyes, and ears.
2. SEPARATE: Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods. Cross-contamination poses a massive threat to people as it could literally bring other microorganisms to the table.
3. COOK: Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood. The food's internal temperature should be high enough to eliminate microorganisms that can make one sick.
4. CHILL: Refrigerate or freeze perishables right away. Stick to the "two-hour rule" for leaving items needing refrigeration out at room temperature. Ensure the refrigerator's temperature is at or below 4 °C while the freezer should be at -18 °C.
References: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Food and Drug Administration