This post serves as a public enlightenment on some of the major sources of food poisoning that we probably don’t know or often overlook and how it affect us daily. In the normal sense, no one will deliberately poison his food or else the person is highly depressed but the fact is that we technically but unknowingly introduce and consume toxic poisons in our food daily. Most of the things we use are injurious and when they contaminate our food it will lead to poisoning when ingested. Food poisoning is of public health importance because it had claimed lives of a multitude. Data released by CDC shows that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. In order to reduce the figure of affected people, there must be an understanding of major sources of poisoning and way to prevent it.
1) Chemicals: This is a leading source of food poisoning and must be taken seriously. When toxic chemicals are introduced into the food they are very injurious to the human when ingested. With the use of chemicals in homes and everywhere, at times we carelessly introduce these toxic chemicals into food. Ingestion of such food will lead to poisoning. Chemicals like rodenticide, pesticide, insecticide, and herbicide are highly poisonous and must be prevented from getting in touch with food. It’s sad that eating fruits and vegetables unpolluted by pesticides have become difficult. Studies have shown that almost half of the fruits and vegetables being consumed these days contain pesticide residue. These pesticides are chlorocarbon and have been identified as having toxic effects on humans, such as effects on the nervous system, carcinogenic effects, effects on the hormonal system, irritation of the skin, eyes and lungs, and weakening of the immune system. Intensive care must be taken while handling these chemicals so that we don’t end up killing ourself else pest, weed, insects will win.
2) Food additives: additives such as food preservatives may lead to food poisoning when not used at a permitted level. Some addictive produce by-product which is toxic when metabolized in the body while some contain heavy metals which cannot be broken down by the body. Research have indicated that most preservatives are carcinogenic. Continuous intake of harmful preservatives in food will deposit more toxins in the body. When the toxins are much than the liver can handle it may damage the liver. Toxic addictive like Canthaxanthin (Orange yellow dye derived from fungi, animal or chemically produced) used for frankfurters has been shown to deposit crystals in the retina which is irreversible hence it have been banned in Switzerland. Also, Aluminum powder (used as a gray dye and as a surface dye in products like cakes, sweets) is neurotoxic (Alzheimer’s) and have been shown to be hazardous to the kidney. It has also been banned in Australia.
More so, with the use of chemicals on seeds such as cereals, legumes to preserve them for storage. Whenever the preserving chemicals are not used adequately and not allowed to keep for the recommended storage time before consumption they produce a toxic effect in the body when consumed thereby leading to serious poisoning. Fortunately, each country has regulatory bodies that works and control to ensure the safety of all foods for public consumption.
3) Microorganism: microorganisms causes food poisoning in two ways:
It may be either by growing and multiplying in the food under the favorable condition and producing toxic substances which when ingested causes food poisoning. In this case, the organism may die or still live in the food. This is mostly associated with anaerobic ( an mouldorganism that can survive in the absence of molecular oxygen), spore-forming, heat resistant bacteria. They are common to spoilage in canned food. Also mold grow on food they produce mycotoxin e.g. aflatoxin. This is called non-infective food poisoning
Some don’t produce toxins within the food but will grow and multiply within the food which when ingested will further grow in the intestine of person who ingest it leading to infective food poisoning. Bacteria common in this case are the enterobacteriacea family e.g V.cholerae, S.dysentriae and so on.
Microbial food poisoning can be prevented by maintaining a good personal and kitchen hygiene. Also canned food must be checked and ensured to be in a good condition that is safe and fit for consumption before taking.
4) Soil: soil can be a source of food poisoning if it’s contaminated. Most of the harmful bacteria such as B.cereus, E.coli are zoonotic. Some lives in the intestinal tract of animals and when this animals pass out faeces, some of the organisms are excreted together with feaces. In areas where farmyard manure are used to grow vegetables, manure may contaminate the vegetable. If thorough washing is not done before consumption the organism may be directly introduced in the human system thus leading to infective food poisoning.
In roots like carrot, due to its attractive color most people are always tempted to eat immediately after buying from the market without washing. Expert have warned people to ensure thorough washing of fruits and vegetables in a clean water for safety. In order to prevent poisoning from contaminated soil, a standard kitchen hygiene should be ensured. Every utensil must be washed and cleaned before use.
5) Plant: not every plant materials are edible. Some are very poisonous in nature and should not be consumed. When taken they are highly injurious to human health and other animals. You can get examples of poisonous plant here www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants/
Also some crops naturally contain some toxic substances which are destroyed during processing. A good example is in cassava which contains toxic substance like hydrocyanic acid (HCN), Lotaustralin, linamarin which are destroyed during processing. Most of these substances are abundant in the peel of cassava and in the fluid. If cassava is not well processed this toxic substance will not be destroyed and when introduced into the body may be injurious to man.
Also some legumes contains heat-labile toxic substances (glucosides, saponins and alkaloids) which are destroyed or reduced during cooking. Moreso, some species of mushroom are deadly poisonous. An example is A.muscaria .When consumed it is hazardous to human health.
6) Man: surprisingly man can also be a source of food poisoning. Our daily unhealthy and unhygienic practices may cause contamination of food and later lead to food poisoning.
Our hand is very useful in doing task but often defiled by: using it to dig the nose, scratch the arm pit, blow the nose, and wash your anus after defecating, picking dirty substances and lot more. It is with this same hand we use to introduce food into the mouth thereby introducing the contaminant dirt at the same time.
In order to be safe, a good hygienic practice should be put into place and it start with washing of hands. It’s very important to ensure hand is being washed with soap or detergent after visiting toilet, handling dirt. Also indiscriminate Shaking of hands with people will transfer contaminant into your hand that is why it’s advisable to wash your hand thoroughly before handling food.
7) Water: in order to live a healthy life, safe drinkable water must be taken. According to The guardian publication in 2006, 15 million children dies daily after drinking dirty water. This shows how hazardous it is to take contaminated water.
Most water supply have been polluted by toxic chemicals, acidic rain and other pollutants. These pollutants have found their way into most water supply through: chemical spray, dumping of industrial wastes into rivers, volcanic eruption, dust and dirt wind, fumes from factories, poor environmental hygiene, leaking pipe, contaminated pipe, and dirty supply-hose and so on. These have rendered most water polluted and unfit for human consumption. A good drinkable water must be free from dissolved chemicals, minerals and heavy metals such as aluminum, barium, lead, inorganic calcium which studies have shown that it can lead to serious health problem. It must be in its purest form and distilled. Water must also must be free from microbial contaminant. The organism used to indicate the presence of the microbial contaminant in water is coliform. When water sample tests positive for coliform, it’s not safe to be taken.
8) Animals: some animals can introduce harmful substances into food. Of all animals, insects are the most successful as they are found in different geographical locations and habitat. With their widespread, numbers of them are harmful. Most insects are vectors so they transmit harmful microorganisms into food. Bacterial and viral infections can be transmitted by sucking insect. A good example is a housefly. Housefly sucks feces, dead-decaying matters, dirty liquids etc and introduce the sucked liquid substance into an uncovered food thereby introducing contaminant. It is funny some people act smart as if they have known the exact spot of contamination and use a finger to fling one part of the food away. If you do this you are endangering your life.
Also, rodents can be harmful, when rodent excreta contact with food, it causes the viral infection. Have you heard of Lassa fever? It has claimed lots of lives in western Africa.
Symptoms after ingesting food contaminated by animals may include stomach disorder, noisy stomach, dizziness, dinginess, noisy stooling, frequent stooling, dehydration, paralysis and in extreme case death. Symptoms may begin to appear from about 12-48 hours.
9) Cosmetics and body care products: some cosmetics can be very harmful. Most cases of food poisoning by cosmetics are always accidental. It’s a pity lot of us are unaware of the toxic effect of some of the products we use daily.
Products like deodorants, perfumes, and colognes are made of lots of alcohol. If you check the bottle or container in which they are suspended you’ll see the word, ‘highly inflammable’. Only alcoholic product are of this property. These alcohol-based products are dangerous to children. It can lead to alcohol poisoning in infants and small children even if taken in small quantity. Hair dyes and hair removal creams can sometimes contain hazardous substances. Also, depilatory creams are very irritating when swallowed. That is why some manufacturer writes this instruction on some cream label, ‘rinse your hand after use’. Personal survey show that 2 out of 10 people don’t rinse their hand after using those creams or do you? Hence when we want to take snacks we use the same hand to introduce it into the mouth thereby ingesting the toxic chemicals together with it.
Other products such as nail polish have been shown to contain the substance which researchers claim can cause the defect in the kidney.
10) Air: surface soil microbes, materials or decaying vegetation that is raised by the wind can contaminate the air. Considering air in our home environment, it may vary greatly depending on several factors including the renewal rate, air currents, ventilation, and movement of people, humidity, temperature, the number of people present and the amount of dust or suspended liquid droplets. The oral (mouth) and nasal (nose) droplets emitted by humans (lyrics, sneezing, and cough) contain large amounts of microorganisms in respiratory flora. These germs die more or less rapidly on contact with air, but if food is nearby emission sources, they may be contaminated. The fact is that air doesn’t have nutrient to support microbial growth so when they are emitted near food, the food will serve as a natural medium for them. In machine-driven aeration system, filters must be changed frequently or sterilized, as they can become a cause of air contamination. To reduce food contamination by microorganisms transmitted by air, you must ensure you: Cover foods whenever possible. Remove dust regularly. Avoid air agitation. Reduce the microbial load of the air by filtration or otherwise.