Foodborne Intoxication | 4 mins read

What is Foodborne Intoxication?

what is foodborne intoxication
Cynthia Vespia

By Cynthia Vespia

What is Foodborne Intoxication?

Foodborne intoxication is more commonly known as food poisoning. Infectious diseases occur as a result of bacteria viruses growing inside foods and releasing toxins. It's this toxin that makes a person sick when eaten. Because the illness is caused by the intestinal tract absorbing the toxin it usually produces symptoms a lot sooner than foodborne illnesses.

The bacteria responsible for foodborne infection include-

  • Clostridium botulinum- Found throughout nature in soil, water and plants. It's also prevalent in the intestines of fish and animals. This bacteria produces a toxin which causes foodborne intoxication when consumed. It affects the nervous system causing symptoms such as double vision or difficulty swallowing or breathing to occur in in 18 to 36 hours. Sometimes symptoms won't appear for a few days after eating the toxin and it can be fatal if not treated quickly.

  • Staphylococcus aureus- Is found on the skin and transfers from person to person through improper food handling. Staph infections will multiply at room temperature to cause illness that produces nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe dehydration can develop if recovery is longer than three days.
Who is at high risk of getting food poisoning?

Food poisoning can affect anyone. Each year, 48 million people in the United States get sick with food poisoning. Some groups of people are more susceptible and can have harsher symptoms. Food safety becomes very important for people in these groups-

  • infants and young children
  • pregnant women
  • older adults
  • people with weak immune systems

Are there any complications of food poisoning?
In some cases, food intoxication can become more serious and lead to severe dehydration, hemolytic uremic syndrome, or other complications. These advanced food poisoning symptoms aren't common and most people recover without developing severe complications.

The Difference Between Foodborne Intoxication and Illness

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The growth of pathogenic microorganisms of food is delicate. If the pH balance, water activity, nutrients, antimicrobial substances, temperature, or conditions are interfered with, it can result in either food intoxication or foodborne illness.

It is necessary to understand how food becomes unsafe to eat and the proactive measures to be taken to keep the food safe. Sometimes food becomes contaminated due to-

  • improper food processing or food preparation
  • improper cooking, especially of raw meat and poultry
  • improper storage by a food handler

Foodborne Illness

Eating contaminated food or contaminated water creates foodborne illness. Different pathogens cause different strains of illness. The main strains of bacteria are escherichia coli (E.coli), listeria monocytogenes and clostridium perfringens.

Symptoms from foodborne illness are any combination of diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever or fatigue. What's referred to as the "stomach flu" is usually a form of foodborne illness that came from eating raw undercooked food like unpasteurized milk.

Foodborne Intoxication

Foodborne intoxication is more commonly referred to as food poisoning. It's caused when foods that contain toxins from pathogens are eaten. Botulism would be an example of food borne intoxication. This type of illness is caused by botulinum toxins, not the bacteria that produce it as is the case with any foodborne intoxication.

Depending on the source of the infection, symptoms food poisoning can vary. Symptoms can begin to show anywhere from 1 hour to 28 days later. The length of time it takes for symptoms to develop also depends on the source of the infection. Common cases of food poisoning typically involve at least three of the following poisoning symptoms-

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • mild fever
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • headaches

Disease control starts with proper food storage, handling and cooking. There are some foods that take more attention as they are more likely to become a cause of food poisoning through mismanagement.

Meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, and fish can all contain pathogens that risk food illness. If any of these foods are not cooked all-the-way through, or handled improperly, they can spread infection to public health and cause food poisoning to occur.

What are some tips to reduce the risk of foodborne infection or illness-

  • Wash hands before cooking food.
  • All foods should be stored and sealed in an efficient manner that reduces spoilage.
  • Cutting surfaces and other food prep areas should be cleaned and sanitized after use.
  • Vegetables and fruits should always be washed before serving.
  • Pregnant women, young children, and those with weakened immune systems should be extra vigilant about what they eat.

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A Final Word on Foodborne Intoxication

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  • Foodborne intoxication is also called food poisoning. It happens when toxic bacteria growing on food is released into the bloodstream after tainted food is eaten.
  • Symptoms from foodborne illness are any combination of diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, or fatigue.
  • Some serious cases of foodborne infection can lead to severe dehydration, hemolytic uremic syndrome, or other complications.
  • Meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, and fish are all risky sources of foodborne infections and illness.

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