Food Poisoning Illness FAQ
Q: Are some foodsmore likely to cause foodborne illness than others?
A: Almost anyfood can become contaminated if mishandled. However, foods rich in protein, such as meat, poultry, fish, andseafood, are most susceptible for two reasons: 1) protein-rich foods tend to beof animal origin, 2) animal foods are rich in protein that bacteria break downinto amino acids, which are an important nutrient source to some bacteria. Also, because bacteria need moisture tosurvive and reproduce, they thrive in foods with high moisture content. These include starchy, egg-rich foods andcream-based foods, such as potato or pasta salads, cream-based soups, andcustard or cream pies.
Q: How sick can I getfrom eating contaminated food?
A: Your age,general health, and the amount of contaminated food eaten are all factors indetermining how sick you can get. Themost common symptoms are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, butyou may not necessarily get all the symptoms.People with weak immune symptoms that are less able to fight off thebacteria can become very ill and even die from foodborne illness.
Q: What are thesymptoms of foodborne illness?
A: Commonsymptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, headache, vomiting,severe exhaustion, and sometimes blood or pus in the stools. Symptoms vary according to the type ofbacteria and the by the amount of contaminants eaten.
In rare instances, symptoms may develop as early as a halfhour after eating contaminated food. Typically,they do not develop for several days or weeks.Symptoms of viral or parasitic illnesses may not appear for severalweeks after exposure. Symptoms generallylost only a day or two, but in some cases can persist for 7 to 10 days. For most healthy people, foodborne illnessesare neither long-lasting nor life-threatening.However, they can be severe in the very young, the very old, and inpeople with certain diseases and conditions.
Q: Can the symptomsof foodborne illness be mistaken for the flu?
A: Yes. Foodborne illness often shows itself asflu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, so many peoplemay not recognize that the illness is caused by bacteria or other pathogens infood.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), many intestinal illnesses, commonly referred to as stomach flu, areactually caused by food-borne pathogens.People often do not associate these illnesses with food because theonset of symptoms often occurs 2 or more days after the contaminated food waseaten.
Q: What should you doif you have a problem with a food product?
A: Separategovernment agencies are responsible for protected different areas of the foodsupply. Click hereto find out more information about contacting the appropriate public healthorganization.
Q: Is irradiated foodsafe How is it labeled?
A: In December2005, the FDA approved treating red meat products with measured doses ofradiation, a process commonly called irradiation. This process can control E. coli O157:H7 and several other disease-causingmicroorganisms. Irradiated foods sold instores must include labeling with either the statement "treated with radiation"or "treated by irradiation" and the international symbol for irradiation, theradura. If only containing irradiatedingredients, the food does not need to describe these ingredients asirradiated. Irradiation labeling doesnot apply to restaurant foods.
The FDA has evaluated irradiation safety and has found theprocess to be safe and effective for many foods. FDA scientists concluded, in its most recentreview, that irradiation reduces or eliminates pathogenic bacteria, insects andparasites.
Q: Why is it important to use a cooking thermometer?
A: Bacteria growslowly at low temperatures and multiply rapidly at mid-range temperatures. To be safe, food must be cooked to aninternal temperature high enough to destroy harmful bacteria. Using a meat thermometer is a reliable way toensure that food has reached the proper temperature. Thermometers must be used properly andcalibrated correctly. Thermometersshould generally be placed in the thickest part of the food, away from bone,fat or gristle. According to the USDA,temperature is the only way to gauge whether food is sufficiently cooked. Looking only at the color of the food can bemisleading. For instance, freezing andthawing may influence a meat's tendency to brown prematurely.
Q: Why is raw milkdangerous?
A: Raw milk mayharbor a host of disease-causing organisms (pathogens), such as the bacteria Campylobacter, Escherichia, Listeria, Salmonella, Yersinia, and Brucella. Common symptoms of foodborne illness frommany of these types of bacteria include diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever,headache, vomiting, and exhaustion. Thepasteurization process uses heat to destroy harmful bacteria withoutsignificantly changing milk's nutritional value or flavor. It destroys bacteria that cause spoilage,thereby extending milk's shelf life. Milkpasteurization can prevent tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio, salmonellosis,strep throat, scarlet fever, and typhoid fever.Milk becomes contaminated when animals shed bacteria into the milk. Cows, goats, and sheep carry bacteria intheir intestines that do not make them sick but can cause illness in people whoconsume their untreated milk or milk products.
Q: If spores cansurvive cooking, freezing, and some sanitizing measures, how can spores beprevented from the start?
A: Do not hold food in the danger zone, thetemperature range in which most bacteria can grow. This range is usually below 40ºF (4ºC). Some pathogenic bacteria can grow at 32ºF(0ºC) or above 140ºF (60ºC). Spores can germinate into pathogenic bacteria inthe danger zone and multiply in food.For example, any cooked dish will generally have all the bacteriakilled, but not the spores. Throw outany foods you have doubts about.
Spore growth is also relevant to improperly canned foods. The FDA makes sure that canned foods areprocessed in a safe manner. Consumersshould be careful not to buy cans with dents, bulges, leaks, or rust spots.
Q: Do all toxins in food survive thecooking process?
A: No. For instance, the botulism toxin caused by Clostridium botulinum can be inactivatedby cooking. Boiling food for 10 minuteseliminates this toxin. However, manyother toxins are heat stable. For example,Staphylococcus can produce toxinsthat are not destroyed at high cooking temperatures. To prevent toxins from developing in food, donot leave food sitting out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. On a hot day (90F or higher), food shouldnot sit out for more than 1 hour.
Q: Is it true thatsome viruses are resistant to heat and coldIf so, what food safety precautions should consumers take?
A: Foodborneviruses are not especially resistant to heat.Most virus outbreaks are the result of foods that are not cooked, or arecontaminated after cooking. Many virusesare very stable in the environment, but cooking is good at denaturing theproteins that protect the virus. That iswhy it is important to cook food, including seafood, thoroughly before eatingit. On the other hand, it is true thatviruses are resistant to cold. Chillingor freezing does not eliminate viruses.Good agricultural and manufacturing practices along the farm-to-tablecontinuum are needed to keep food from being contaminated by pathogens in thefirst place.
Q: What is thedifference between viruses and bacteria?
A: Viruses arethe smallest and simplest life form known.They are 10 to 100 times smaller than bacteria. The biggest difference between viruses andbacteria is that viruses must have a living host like a plant or animal tomultiply, while most bacteria can grow on non-living surfaces.
Also, unlike bacteria, which attack the body like soldiersmounting a pitched battle, viruses are guerilla fighters. They do not attack so much asinfiltrate. They literally invade humancells and turn the cell's genetic material from its normal function toproducing the virus itself.
Additionally, bacteria carry all the machinery needed fortheir growth and multiplication, while viruses carry mainly information forexample, DNA or RNA, packaged in a protein and/or membranous coat. Viruses harness the host cell's machinery toreproduce. In a sense, viruses are nottruly "living," but are essentially information (DNA or RNA) that float arounduntil they encounter a suitable living host.