According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 200 diseases are transmitted through food, sometimes with fatal consequences, particularly to very old and very young people, or those with weakened immune systems.
Following are some of the many foodborne illnesses you could be at risk of contracting:
E. coli 0157:H7
“Hamburger disease”, caused by bacteria found in undercooked meats, particularly ground beef, or unpasteurized milk, apple juice, sprouts and greens. Symptoms include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), vomiting, stomach cramps and mild fever. It can sometimes be fatal by causing kidney failure, anemia and internal bleeding, especially in young children and elderly adults.
Treatment: See your doctor for relief of cramps or bloody diarrhea and drink plenty of clear fluids.
Avoidance tips: Cook hamburger thoroughly (not pink), don’t let meat sit around at room temperature, wash hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before, during and after food preparation.
A foodborne infection caused by salmonella bacteria. Symptoms include sudden stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and severe dehydration. Commonly found in raw eggs and egg products, undercooked poultry and meats.
Treatment: Antibiotics in some cases, otherwise nothing, except for drinking lots of fluids to rehydrate the body.
Avoidance tips: Wash hands with hot water and soap after using bathroom and before, during and after food preparation. Thoroughly cook all animal-sourced foods such as eggs, meat and poultry. Keep kitchen surfaces and cutting boards clean with diluted bleach solution.
A stomach infection caused by yersinia bacteria carried in the stomachs of humans and animals. Passed on to humans through untreated water, pork, contaminated tofu and unpasteurized milk, or through handling of pets and other domestic animals. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and fever.
Treatment: Possibly antibiotics.
Avoidance tips: Wash hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds after using a bathroom and before, during and after handling food. Thoroughly cook pork dishes and other food from animal sources. Keep kitchen clean with diluted bleach and don’t consume unpasteurized milk or milk products.
A food-borne bacterium that causes listeriosis, which can be extremely serious for unborn children, new babies, and anyone with a weakened immune system. It can lead to spontaneous abortion, blood infections, and stillbirths. Those with weakened immune systems can develop potentially fatal brain swelling or blood poisoning.
Symptoms are flu-like (fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea). Hot dogs, luncheon meats, fermented or dried sausages and soft cheeses such as brie should be avoided by pregnant women and persons with compromised immune systems, unless these foods are heated to extremely hot temperatures.
Treatment: Antibiotics, but not always successful.
Avoidance tips: good kitchen hygiene (washing hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water, handling foods properly), thoroughly washing vegetables and fully cooking meats.