Food contamination refers to tainting, pollution or infection of edible foodstuffs by either microorganisms such as bacteria and parasites or toxic substances such as chemical poisons thus making them unfit for human consumption. Consumption of contaminated food may lead to serious diseases, health complications or even death. Contaminated food usually causes intoxications or illnesses.
According to Peariso, food contamination can be broadly grouped into three major categories; that is chemical, biological and physical food contaminations. Chemical food contaminations result from chemical substances such as detergents, oil and poisons; biological contaminations are caused by microorganisms whereas physical food contaminations are caused by physical objects such as sand or soil particles (Peariso 51).
Sources of Food Contamination
According to Wilson, food contamination is majorly caused by microbial infections or environmental pollutions. Microorganisms that cause food contamination include bacteria such as Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium botulinum, Vibrio cholera and Escherichia coli or parasites such as Entamoeba histolytic, Trichinella spiralis and Cryptosporidium parvum. Environmental food contamination often results from improper handling and storage of food (Wilson 22).
Food Contamination by Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli (E. coli) refer to a group of enteropathogenic bacteria that causes food contamination. The E. coli bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of human beings and other warm-blooded animals. E. coli is the main bacteria responsible for major food contaminations. A report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that more than two thousand hospitalizations and approximately one hundred deaths that occur in the US annually are caused by E. coli bacteria (Lew 218). E. coli is usually transmitted through feces of infected persons and animal remains. Human feces and untreated water are the major sources of food contamination by E. coli.
Prevention of Food Contamination by E. coli
E. coli infection usually results from eating contaminated foods. This can be prevented and controlled through maintaining high standards of cleanliness and hygiene. All foodstuffs should be kept in clean containers and stored in clean and hygienic environments. Handling of foodstuffs in hygienic surfaces to prevent recontamination is equally essential. Moreover, refrigerated food should be kept at very low temperatures to discourage the growth of microbial bacteria.
According to Charles Wilson, food contamination by E. coli bacteria can be prevented through adequate sanitization of raw foods such as fruits and vegetables before eating. All foods must be properly cooked (Wilson 167). It is also important to practice high levels of personal hygiene, for example, cutting fingernails, wearing gloves when changing baby napkins, hand washing with warm water before meals and after visiting toilets and latrines. The Government and other relevant authorities such as the Public Health watchdogs should formulate and implement vital laws and regulations that control the operation of food establishments such as hotels and kiosks. All food establishments must be bound by law to follow pre-described procedures for preparation and handling food and other related food products. The government can as well practice Phage Therapy to prevent food contamination. Phage Therapy refers to the process of spraying meat and other related products with artificial viruses that infect bacteria, hence preventing food infection by the microorganisms.
Treatment of Patients suffering from Food Contamination
The diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from food contamination depends on the food contaminant, that is, sources of contamination. Patients suffering from food poisoning may be given drugs that neutralize the poison. They should also be given sufficient drinks, especially water to replace body fluids lost through diarrhea. Most physicians recommend the use of anti-vomiting medications and drugs that stop diarrhea (Anti-diarrheal).
For those people who are suffering from bacterial food infections, administration of antibiotics can successfully help them. In addition, a patient should get proper nutrition and seek medical advice as soon as possible. People should also avoid taking undercooked foods or those foods which they are not certain of their sources, especially ready-made or takeaway foods.