Did you know that about 2 million people die every year due to foodborne diseases in India?

One out of nine people falls sick due to contaminated food. Besides malnutrition, food adulteration and contamination is one of the leading factors for an unhealthy lifestyle.

What are foodborne diseases?

Consuming contaminated foods or beverages leads to various illnesses. Such diseases which are caused by foods or beverages are known as foodborne diseases. Infectious organisms like bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other toxins lead to food poisoning. While some food poisonings are mild and can be cured without any treatment. They are self-treatable and can be resolved within a week.

Food contamination also leads to various dangerous diseases like listeriosis, salmonella infections, Vibrio infections, and many more. These infections and illnesses are caused by various pathogens. These diseases are not self-treatable and require medical assistance. Some food-borne diseases when left untreated may also lead to death. Microbiology tests are also used to treat these pathogens.

Pathogens and their diseases

Bacteria can grow on any surface under favorable conditions. Some types of bacteria are naturally present in the food, while others are developed due to various external factors. The common sources for foodborne diseases are meat, eggs, seafood, milk, and other dairy products like cheese, butter, etc.

Staphylococcus Aureus, Vibrio sp, Salmonella sp, E.Coli, Yersinia Enterocolitica, etc are some of the major pathogens responsible for foodborne diseases. Listeria monocytogenes is commonly grown on ready to eat food. Chocolates, peanut butter, sauces, and canned food are also sources of various pathogens.

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Here are a few pathogens and the diseases caused because of it.

  • Listeria monocytogenes causes listeriosis. Symptoms of this illness include fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, etc.
  • Salmonella causes Salmonellosis. Diarrhea, vomitings, abdominal cramps, and nausea are a few symptoms of this disease.
  • Shigella leads to Shigellosis or Bacillary dysentery. Abdominal cramps, fever, diarrhea, nausea are some signs of mild illness. A serious illness caused due to Shigella may also lead to stool consisting of mucus or blood.
  • vulnificus infection caused due to Vibrio vulnificus virus can be fatal to people with weak immune systems or liver diseases. Fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, bleeding within the skin, ulcers, and blood infections are signs of this disease.
  • Hepatitis caused by hepatitis A is also one of the dreadful diseases. Diarrhea, dark urine, jaundice, fever, headache, nausea, and abdominal pain are some symptoms of Hepatitis.
  • Hemorrhagic colitis is caused by E.Coli (0157:H7). Severe diarrhea often bloody, abdominal pain, vomiting,

These are some of the common foodborne diseases. They can affect both children and adults, but they could be more fatal for children since they have less immunity.

How to identify if the food is contaminated?

Contaminated food is not different from ordinary food. They don’t taste, smell, or look differently.  It is almost impossible to find out the contaminated food just through the naked eye.

One can identify the presence of pathogens in food only through microbiology tests. Various methods like biological, chemical, biochemical, molecular are used for the detection of the pathogens. These microbiology tests are also useful in treating the pathogens before they do irreversible damage.

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Since there is a direct relationship between microorganisms and diseases, it is necessary to get the edibles tested before we eat or drink them. As per the food safety and standards act, 2006, every food product has to be tested and approved before it’s available in the market.

Microbiological testing of food plays a crucial role in restricting foodborne diseases. They help in increasing the quality of food and also ensure food safety.

How to prevent foodborne diseases?

Even though the food in the market is sold only it is approved by the authorities, there might still be pathogens due to external factors. The disease-causing microbes may come in contact with the food during its packaging or transport or any other reason.

Here are a few tips to prevent foodborne diseases

  • It is advised to wash hands for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Do not consume raw meat.
  • Cook the food completely at the right temperatures.
  • Wash all the equipment used in cooking thoroughly.
  • Do Not store cooked food for so long in the refrigerator.
  • Do not use raw milk. It is advised to use pasteurized milk.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them raw or cooking.
  • Do not use packed food beyond its expiry date.

Food can be contaminated easily in various ways. Since it is difficult to identify the presence of microbes, it is recommended to follow hygienic methods of consumption. Foodborne diseases are one of the leading factors for malnutrition. Though some illnesses may be mild, sometimes they develop into chronic disabilities.

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