Sunday, July 5, 2009

Improper handling, main reason of food poisoing

The Gulf Today, 26 June 2009
About 97 per cent of the food poisoning cases occur as a result of improper food handling, according to a Dubai-based specialist doctor.
Dr Anil Awatramani, general practitioner at Unicare Medical Centre in Dubai said, "Among the food poisoning cases, 79 per cent happen from the food items prepared in commercial or institutional establishments, while 21 per cent of the cases are the result of the improperly cooked home food."
The major reason of contamination of food is carelessness in leaving prepared food at temperatures that allow bacterial growth.
"Bacteria are responsible for approximately 75 per cent of the outbreaks of food poisoning.Inadequate cooking, reheating, cross-contamination, and infection in food handlers are also the common reasons for a food to get poisoned," he added.
According to him, the cross-contamination of food may occur when raw contaminated food comes in contact with other foods, especially cooked foods, through direct contact or indirect contact on food preparation surfaces.
"Diseases due to food poisoning can be an infective or toxic nature thought to be caused by the consumption of contaminated food or water. Non-infectious and organic toxins may develop in mushrooms, fish, beans and heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and lead."
Dr Awatramani pointed out, "Most of the food poisoning cases are mild, but develop into fatal conditions if proper and specific treatments are not provided to the affected patient. In severe situations, the patients require hospitalisation for aggressive hydration, electrolyte supplementation and empiric treatment with antibiotics."
"The symptoms of food poisoning include abdominal pain, vomiting, Diarrhoea and headache, but they can vary in degree and combination. More serious cases can result in life-threatening neurological, hepatic and renal syndromes leading to permanent disability and death," he detailed.
The doctor advised to take measures to avoid bacterial contamination while preparing and keeping food items. The prevention of food poisoning should be taken at individual and community level, by maintaining good personal hygiene. Habits like washing hands frequently, especially after using the toilet, handling raw foods or cleaning soiled utensils surfaces or appliances.
"Clean and sanitised equipment and surfaces should be used for food preparation, as well as avoiding cross-contamination by preparing and storing raw and cooked foods separately. If any physical wounds and cuts have happened to those who prepare food, they should cover the wounds with waterproof dressings," said Dr Awatramani.
He noted that food items should be kept either hot above 600 Celsius temperature, or below 50 Celsius cold. If the food is kept properly, it should be reheated to 750 Celsius as quickly as possible. It's very important to check refrigerators or cool rooms and cold displays that whether they operate below 50 Celsius, and freezers below 180 Celsius. Overloading refrigerators, cool rooms, cold displays or freezers can also lead to contamination.
"Other food safety measures include avoiding preparation far in advance of service, dividing large portions of food into smaller portions to facilitate faster cooking, refrigerate foods within 30 minutes of preparation. We can kill the bacteria through proper cooking only," said Dr Awatramani.
"At industrial level, the prevention of food poisoning can be implemented only through improvement in food handling and preparation to prevent contamination during processing, transport and preparation. The authorities should focus on improved surveillance and regulation of the food industry, as well as better health education for the public to tackle outbreaks of food poisoning," he added.

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