Saturday, January 7, 2012


I am becoming a little bored with blogging food recalls. So how about a topic that is more general - and basic, about which there is still a lot of confusion - "food poisoning". Most professionals prefer a label like "food borne illness" instead. But most consumers think in terms of "food poisoning". So what is it?

The terms if very loosely used. But here are a few thoughts. Not everyone will agree with my broad definition.

In its broader use, "food poisoning" refers to not only infectious microbes in food (bacteria, viruses, molds/fungi, parasites) and the illnesses they cause, but also to toxic substances in food and their effect on our health. In the case of the toxic agents, they can be naturally occurring, result from environmental contamination or agriculture practices employed, or even from terrorist activity.

Eating "poisoned" food - meaning "contaminated" food, can lead to very mild symptoms, or even just feeling "off" and tired, or, it can send you to the hospital and even kill you. And don't think that if you become ill after a meal, that the foods you ate then were the cause. Depending on what is involved (and how much of it, and who you are), you can come down with a case of "food poisoning" in less than an hour, or months after you ate the contaminated food.

The usual symptoms are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and weakness. But there can be other very different symptoms as well, as in the case of certain bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, Norovirus, natural toxins in seafood and mushrooms, and when toxic metals or toxic chemicals are involved.

And don't think "food poisoning" is just about those bacteria we hear about all the time like Salmonella, E.coli and Listeria. There are hundreds of infectious agents that can crop up in the food we eat and hundreds of toxic substances are well. The large majority of cases of food poisoning are never linked to a cause.

To your good health,


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