News & Views
Which Diseases Can Be Spread Through Food?
Feb 27 2021 Read 1073 Times
Many diseases and illnesses around the world are contracted and spread by contaminated foods. Because there are a wide variety of pathogens, microbes, bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals capable of causing illness in the human body, there are logically a high number of different foodborne diseases and ailments.
This proliferation of diseases means that food analysis has never been so challenging for the scientific community. The incubation periods of different diseases vary hugely, from just a single hour to several weeks, making it even more difficult to determine whether a person has been infected, while many foodborne illnesses can also be transmitted through drinking water, animals or human-to-human contact.
Common foodborne diseases
Although not an exhaustive list, the following diseases are commonly spread among human food that has become contaminated in one way or another:
- Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infection
- Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome
- Norovirus Infection
- Scombroid Fish Poisoning
- Vibrio Infection
Sufferers from the above diseases will most likely become aware that something is wrong due to abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, fever, fatigue and bodily aches, which can last anywhere from one day to up to a week.
Which foods are susceptible to contamination?
Any uncooked foods of animal origin are those which are most likely to be contaminated and carry a foodborne illness. Therefore, raw meats, raw poultry, raw fish, raw seafood, raw eggs and unpasteurised milk are considered to be the most susceptible to contamination. However, that does not mean that other food groups are invariably safe or free from disease.
For example, animal waste is often used as an agricultural fertiliser and diseases can be transferred from that manure to the fruit, vegetables or other crops being cultivated. The same goes for any produce that is washed in unclean water. Meanwhile, raw sprouts are among the most dangerous vegetables, since the conditions in which they are grown are perfect for the development of microbes. Fruit juices and ciders that have not been pasteurised are another susceptible foodstuff, while any item which has been handled by someone with a contagious disease can easily pass on the contaminants to someone else.
Mitigating the risks
Prevention of the spread of foodborne diseases is, first and foremost, the responsibility of the food industry. In order to minimise the risk that produce carries contaminants in or on it, those in charge of operations must address proper implementation of hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP). This is the first life of defence against the proliferation of foodborne illnesses.
On the other hand, individual consumers can safeguard themselves from contracting diseases by taking basic precautions. This means thoroughly washing all food before using it in cooking, as well as heating dishes until they are piping hot throughout in order to kill off any bacteria. Finally, adequate hygiene should be practiced at all times, to ensure that the hands and face are kept clean and sanitised.
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