Why The Causes Of Food Poisoning Are Hard To Avoid

2011-06-02 | |
Last updated: 2011-06-02

Living in a first or even second world country presents most of the population in these countries with opportunities to enjoy quality food every day. For those of us living in these countries, our risks of illness from contaminated foods are rare in comparison to third world countries or our own countries in the past. Though we may not make good food choices as individuals, the food that we do eat generally poses few risks of illness from contamination.

However, the complexity and ever changing nature of our food system means that there are numerous ways in which we can become ill from food poisoning, making it important to understand the causes and the risks. This is especially true for those with chronic health conditions who are more at risk from the effects of food poisoning.

Some of the earliest public concern over food safety arose in the US and Britain in the mid 1800s. With better understanding and control over other infectious diseases, society’s focus on health began to include food safety. In 1884, the US established the Bureau of Animal Industry to prevent sick animals from being used as food. By 1939, the British government was providing public notifications regarding incidents of food poisoning.

Until this day, protection of food quality is something that a majority of individuals expect from their governments. A recent US poll on the subject showed that 85% of the population has expectations that the government should be responsible for the safety of food.

Despite this desire by the public, there are still a considerable number of cases of food poisoning annually. A 1999 study in the US, estimated that 76 million people suffer from food-related illnesses each year. Of these, about 325,000 require hospitalization and 5 thousand people die as a result of food contamination. Among the millions of people affected, the cause is only known for 1 in 5 cases meaning that determining what made us sick occurs far less often than we would like.

What Contamination Causes Food Poisoning?

There are a significant number of sources that can lead to food contamination. More than 200 causes are known that include parasites, bacteria, viruses, moulds, prions, metals and toxic chemicals. Of these, five of the more common forms of food contamination are due to the bacteria and parasites listed below:

– Salmonella – found in eggs, meat and milk
– Campylobacter – found in milk and poultry
– Shigella – found in raw, precut vegetables
– Cryptosporidium – found in water, fruit and vegetables
– E. coli – found in ground beef

Keep in mind that it is important to not treat the order of this list as absolute because while some food contamination is more common, in some cases, it is less often as serious. What this means is that doctors may see fewer patients with the more common types of food poisoning than they do patients with rarer types of food poisoning that are more severe.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks

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