Food poisoning is a prevalent disorder most often benign but can cause fatal complications.
Food poisoning occurs after the ingestion of food or beverages contaminated with a bacterium, virus, or parasite.
Types of possible infections
Most of the time, food poisoning occurs after ingestion:
- Fresh food unwashed or washed with soiled water;
- A poorly preserved food or one whose cold chain has not been respected;
- From bad or uncooked food.
Several factors can cause food poisoning:
Infection with a bacterium
The virus can be caused by the bacteria itself or by the toxins it produces. The poisoning is due to dirty water or undercooking of food, especially meat, poultry, fish, eggs … The main bacteria responsible for food poisoning are:
- Escherichia coli
Infection with a virus
This infection affects agricultural and marine products and is caused by a norovirus, the virus that causes diarrhea. It occurs when the products have been in contact with dirty water or have been eaten raw or undercooked.
Infection with a parasite
The parasite that causes disease is Giardia intestinalis, which causes intestinal parasitosis and is found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and water.
Infection with a fungus
Some poisonous mushrooms contain a muscarinic toxin that attacks the nervous system, which has severe or even fatal consequences on the infected person.
Infection with fish or seafood
Some fish have very toxic flesh, and others may become so if they have ingested an aquatic microorganism of the family dinoflagellates, which secretes a toxic algal substance, the neurotoxin saxitoxin. Oysters, mussels, scallops and clams can also be infected with dinoflagellate.
Infection with an insecticide
The most harmful insecticides contain organophosphates which are toxic gases for insects. Ingested by a human being, this compound can cause neurological disorders that can lead to death.
Symptoms of food poisoning
Food poisoning causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, the most common symptoms of which are:
- Abdominal pain
The main complication related to these symptoms is dehydration and the various disorders caused by the significant loss of water and electrolytes.
These symptoms may also be accompanied by fever and headache. Infections can sometimes reach the central nervous system, and cause language problems, visual disturbances, breathing difficulties, and muscle paralysis. Other bacteria, such as Campylobacter, can cause meningitis, urinary tract infection, and arthritis. In rare extreme cases, food poisoning leads to disease and death.
Treatments for food poisoning
The duration of intoxication depends on its cause and the condition of the person but is usually 1 to 3 days. Within a week, the infected individual can be cured without special drug treatment. You have to be patient and wait for the stomach to “calm down”. It is therefore advisable to avoid solid foods and, if possible, to drink water in small sips so as not to forget to hydrate.
If dehydration is too essential, hospitalization should be considered to rehydrate and feed the patient intravenously.
If the infection reaches the central nervous system, a specific treatment must be put in place, as, for example, with atropine, which is an antispasmodic used to counter the effects of muscarine contained in mushrooms. In more severe cases, gastric lavage is necessary to remove all traces of harmful agents and pathogens.
Food poisoning during Christmas and New Year
The end of year festivities and their large meals are fast approaching, and it would be a shame to spoil the party with food poisoning … The classic Christmas menu includes foods that are likely to cause gastric disorders if they are poorly preserved. Or poorly cooked.
Unconditional meals of 24 and 31 December, foie gras rarely causes food poisoning because its production and storage are very controlled. The rare risks of contamination by bacteria appear when handling the product. If the preserve in which the foie gras is preserved is curved, there is a risk of contamination!
Some mushrooms that accompany the Christmas meal release muscarine, a poisonous substance that can cause dramatic sweating that can lose pounds in one night. So be careful to buy mushrooms at a safe shop.
As seen previously, seafood is a significant cause of food poisoning. This is because they may contain plankton from the family of dinoflagellates that releases a toxin. As soon as seafood has a suspicious appearance or smell, do not eat it if you want to have a good Christmas Eve!
Game and poultry
Monitoring the cooking of these foods is paramount. Under-cooking leads to the development of bacteria, especially Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus.
Soft cheeses are the most incriminated, especially those based on raw milk where many bacteria grow, including Listeria, which causes listeriosis that affects the central nervous system. Today, cheese production is controlled, and there is still a little risk of being infected by this bacteria.
A Christmas log consists of cream and eggs, two foods at high risk of contamination. To avoid any danger, the storage conditions and the cold chain must be respected.
So be careful with the conservation and cooking of your food and happy new year!