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It’s never pretty.

And often it comes without warning, like an unwelcome guest who elbows his way to your dinner table.

When it’s all done, you feel miserable. Abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, headache, severe exhaustion – these are but some of the horrible symptoms of food poisoning whose very mention is enough to make you shudder. For me personally, I discovered what it was like to have pain in every bone, muscle, organ, fiber, hair and surface of my body. I was so miserable I understood how someone could contemplate suicide.

But if you ever get it or have it this very instant, you are not alone. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 76 million Americans suffer these horrible symptoms as a result of food-borne illnesses every year. It’s what the FDA refers to as “the unappetizing truth.” What we eat can very well be the vehicle for food-borne illnesses that can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms and may be life-threatening to the less healthy among us.

The prime causes of food-borne illness are bacteria, viruses and parasites. Bacteria causing food-borne illness include Escherichia coli (commonly known as E.Coli), Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium perfringens, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio vulnificus, and Shigella. Viruses, such as Hepatitis A and noroviruses, can also cause food-borne illness. Parasites are another origin of this type of illness and include Giardia lamblia, Cyclospora cayetanensis, and Cryptosporidium parvum.

These organisms can infest a wide range of foods we eat every single day, including meat, milk, eggs, spices, chocolate, seafood and even water. Experts in the past have particularly singled out certain foods when it comes to food poisoning that include unpasteurized fruit, vegetable juices, raw or undercooked eggs, chicken, tuna, potato and macaroni salads, cream-filled pastries and fresh produce.

What sets the stage for the growth of these disease-causing bugs? The FDA and numerous other health agencies have no doubts about what causes these problems – careless food handling. It could be anything from servers or cooks not washing their hands properly to hot or cold foods left standing too long at room temperature or improper cooking practices. Contamination also occurs when cutting boards and kitchen tools that have been used to prepare tainted food, such as raw meat, are not cleaned before being used to prepare another food, such as salad vegetables, which will not end up being cooked.

Part One of Two Segments.

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