Reducing food-borne illness

Dr Maxwell Adeyemi -
Dr Maxwell Adeyemi -


Although many people understand why they must do a medical examination to obtain a food badge in order to sell food, some people still don’t. The simple reason is that such medical evaluations assist in screening and identifying people with the potential to spread food-borne diseases and is a measure that helps to protect public health.

Food-borne parasites and bacteria can be deadly and controlling them is a matter of serious concern for governments and food producers alike. While these micro-organisms are unseen to the naked eye, they can cause serious illness if ingested with food or drinks. These microorganisms can easily be transferred from food vendors to consumers if proper hygiene is not practiced.

Some potentially dangerous food-borne germs

Escherichia coli is a bacterium that easily contaminated food and get people sick. The Shiga toxin Escherichia coli [STEC] is most common and produces a toxin called shiga that is dangerous to human. It is generally found in under-cooked beef. If ingested you can experience stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, and bloody diarrhoea. You can lower your risk of Escherichia coli by cooking all of your meats until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F (71.1°C). When preparing beef, keep your work surface clean, wash your hands frequently, and don’t cross-contaminate cooking utensils.

Giardia lamdia is one of the most common causes of water-borne and food-borne illness It’s usually found in water or food that’s been contaminated with faeces containing the parasite. An infection with giardia is known as giardiasis. It is contracted by eating undercooked pork, lamb, or wild game. Symptoms of infection include cramps, gas pains, diarrhoea, and nausea. It can take as many as one to two weeks for symptoms to appear and two to six weeks for them to subside. In rare cases, symptoms can last months or even years. You can prevent giardiasis by frequently washing your hands, drinking water from treated municipal sources, avoiding swallowing water when swimming and thoroughly cooking your meat

There are several types of tape worms that can find their way into the body through food. Most of the tape worms that affect humans come from eating under-cooked animal products, particularly beef, pork and contaminated fish. People can live with tape worms for months or even years without knowing because they may not have any symptoms. People with tape worm infections may experience weight loss, abdominal pain, and irritation of the anus. You can prevent tape worm infection by thoroughly cooking all the meat you eat, and by washing all fruits and vegetables before you eat or cook them.

An existing infection of pork tape worm can be made worse by itching and poor hygiene, during which eggs are transferred from the anus to the mouth after scratching or wiping.

Toxoplasma gondii, a microscopic parasite that causes the disease toxoplasmosis, can only reproduce inside of cats. It can be passed on through cat faeces. If you touch a cat with an infection or handle its litter box without washing your hands afterwards, you could easily transmit the parasite to your food when you handle or prepare it. Symptoms are flu-like, and toxoplasmosis is the third leading cause of death by food-borne illness in the world. This parasitic infection can also be contracted from eating under-cooked meat or drinking untreated water. You can minimise or prevent the infection of this parasite by thoroughly washing and cooking your food well, frequently washing your hands, and wearing gloves when handling cat faeces.

Ascaris, a genus of intestinal roundworm, are generally transmitted when people ingest the eggs of the worm. These eggs can end up in your food when you touch contaminated soil or eat fruits and vegetables that were grown in such soil without first washing them. Symptoms of ascariasis are often mild or non-existent and may include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, as well as coughing and shortness of breath.

The risk of infection can be reduced by frequently washing your hands, washing all produce before you eat it, and avoiding any produce you suspect may have been grown in contaminated soil.

Criptosporidium parasites are protected by a hard shell and can be found in fresh produce, milk, and fruit juice.

Cryptosporidiosis infection can cause an upset stomach, low fever, cramps, and watery diarrhoea. These symptoms usually appear two to ten days (or an average of seven days) after ingestion. If you come into contact with faeces containing the parasite (when changing a diaper, for instance), you could contract an infection.

You can prevent this infection by thoroughly washing all of your produce, drinking pasteurised milk and juices, and washing your hands frequently throughout the day.

There are several varieties of flukes or flat worms that may be found in fish, such as Opisthorchiidae and Paragonimus. These worms are killed during the cooking process, so the greatest chance of ingesting one is by eating raw fish. Symptoms vary depending on the species. They may take months to show up, but they most often include digestive distress. The chance of contracting this infection is usually low, and it is most often seen among travellers.

When travelling abroad, exercise caution when eating raw fresh water fish and dishes in which the preparation methods are unknown.

Pin worms are also known as thread worms and include species such as Vibrio vulnificus, Shigella, and Trichinella. They cause the most common worm infection in many jurisdictions. While pin worms usually only affect children, anyone is at risk of infection. Pin worms may contaminate food due to poor hygiene and are easily spread. If one member of a household contracts the infection, then everyone in the household has to be treated.

The worms live for about five to six weeks in the intestines before dying, leaving behind eggs that hatch and take up residence.

The most common symptom of a pin worm infection is itching around the anus, which can lead to greater infestation as scratching the affected area can transport worms and eggs back up to the mouth and face.

To prevent food-borne diseases, vendors should ensure they practice good personal and cooking hygiene.

Contact Dr Maxwell at 363-1807 or 757-5411.


"Reducing food-borne illness"

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