The Big 3: Food Poisoning Illnesses and How to Avoid Them
Food is the stuff we put in us to sustain life. So it is particularly shocking when we discover that the things we're eating to keep strong are actually making us sick. Unfortunately, this happens with foods we consider healthy as well as those that might be termed junk.
Every week practically a food is recalled. Not all recalls are for food poisoning - sometimes there are issues with packaging, labeling, or a manufacturing defect -- but poisoning does occur frequently. There are over 250 types of food poisoning documented and there are 3 major culprits of food borne illness.
The Big Three
- E. coli: The admonition to eat leafy greens has been replaced in recent years by warnings to be wary of E. coli in spinach particularly, but also other greens. There have been many spinach recalls due to the discovery of E. coli bacteria. But actually the bacteria occurs naturally in the human intestine and most strains are harmless. Beware ground beef as well; some cases of E. coli poisoning have occurred when cow intestines were mixed into ground beef ahead of distribution.
- Listeria: Listeriosis is the result of poisoning from listeria, which is particularly threatening to pregnant women, newborns, and the elderly. Listeria bacteria thrive in raw and undercooked meat and pork, particularly.
- Salmonella: Last year salmonella caused trouble for hundreds of Americans who ate poisoned cucumbers. The cukes killed one woman and food borne illness expert believe that rates of illness were in the thousands, but that people fail to recognize symptoms as food poisoning. Salmonella symptoms include abdominal pains, chills, diarrhea, headaches, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches. The infection usually manifests soon after exposure -- within 6 hours to 3 days -- and most people recover without medical treatment. The vast majority of reported cases of illness were in children and the San Diego woman who died after infection was 99 years old, so especially vulnerable.
The same precautions should be taken to avoid all food poisoning. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and raw and undercooked meats, wash your fruit and vegetables, and keep your hands and kitchen clean when cooking.