The Possible Consequences of Improperly Handling Food

by georgettejohn

Every year there are illnesses, many severe, and deaths that can be attributed to the mishandling of the food we ingest.

It is important to understand the potential consequences when food is not properly prepared, cooked and stored. There are various bacteria that can multiply rapidly and cause a number of serious health risks. There are a few that are the most common culprits, negatively affecting the health of millions of people every year.

I attended an in-service training recently.  I have to admit I scowled when I heard I had to attend. I did not believe it was not applicable to my job and I felt it was a waste of my time, time that would be better spent “in the field” doing what I do best.

On the morning the training began, I started to daydream about all of the things I had to put on the backburner for the day and would have to work twice as hard to make up on another.  Somewhere in those thoughts, something caught my attention.  It may have been the graphic illustration of how rapidly bacteria multiply on food or it could have been the statistics that were presented:  On average, one in six Americans becomes  ill with food poisoning each year. That equates to approximately 48 Million people. Of those 48 million people, 100,000 will end up in the hospital with possible long term consequences from food poisoning.  When the potential consequences were identified, I found them to be alarming and quite frightening.

I quickly realized this in-service training was indeed pertinent. From an employment perspective it is important that I be able to recognize if various symptoms or ailments may be an indicator of food poisoning.  This information was valuable for personal reasons as well. As the primary person involved in food preparation, cooking, and storing in my household, I should be very aware of the responsibilities and recommended safeguards that come with each task. I now know the consequences that can result from not taking these responsibilities seriously.

Acute Kidney failure can be caused by the E.coli bacteria. This is the most common reason for acute kidney failure in children. The E. coli bacteria can cause an infection in the digestive system that produces toxic substances that destroy red blood cells. This can result in injury to the kidney and can cause Hemolytic-uremic syndrome.

Nerve or Brain Damage can be caused from Meningitis, Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes around the brain.  The Listeria infection can cause meningitis. This can be extremely serious at any age and the potential for death is there but If a newborn is infected with Listeria, long termconsequences may include mental retardation, seizures or paralysis.  It can cause the infant to lose the ability to see or hear as well.

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Another  bacteria,  Campylobacter, can cause an infection that can trigger Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disorder that affects the nerves of the body. This occurs when an individual’s immune system attacks their own nerves. It can result in paralysis. Paralysis can last several weeks, usually requiring intensive care. Of the reported cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in this country, at least 40 % of them may have been triggered by an infection with Campylobacter.

Campylobacter infections may also be responsible for people developing chronic arthritis. I was personally surprised to learn that a Shigella or Salmonella infection may be responsible for some people developing joint pain, eye irritation or painful urination. This is termed reactive arthritis and it can last for an extended period of time. It has the potential of causing chronic arthritis.

Vibrio infections may infect the bloodstream and cause the potential for death in over half of the diagnosed cases, within two days, due to illness. In addition, Norovirus infections, (a group of related viruses) cause a myriad of symptoms and health complications, often severe or life threatening.

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The statistics are quite unsettling. The organisms and infections I have listed above account for 88% of the deaths associated with food poisoning. In the United States, these deaths number at least 3,000. Proper food preparation, cooking, and storage can reduce the potential risk of exposure and infection.

Updated: 03/06/2013, georgettejohn
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georgettejohn on 04/07/2013

Years ago my mom ordered eggs at a major hotel chain restaurant and literally, almost died. While she was in the hospital the health department determined where the "poisoning" had probably come from because multiple reports had come in- over 50 other people that ate eggs there that weekend were ill as well.

ologsinquito on 04/07/2013

Hi Georgette. I had no idea there can be such serious consequences from eating bacteria-contaminated food. I thought a little digestive upset and vomiting were all we had to worry about.

georgettejohn on 03/07/2013

Thankyou Katiem! I buy the reusable bags and always end up using them as totes for other stuff! I do wash the couple I do use quite frequently though. It is said that cross contamination can even occur within the shopping cart. I am working on another article (along this line) that hopefully I can post tonight.

georgettejohn on 03/07/2013

Thanks Mira!

georgettejohn on 03/07/2013

I agree, it is pretty scary and far better to be safe than sorry ...

katiem2 on 03/07/2013

Oh yes how important. I heard (just yesterday) on the news the popular reusable grocery bags we all love to use are riddle with bacteria and should be washed on a regular basis to prevent contaminating food, cross contamination is something I had not considered. Great article. :)K

Mira on 03/07/2013

Right. It's always best to freeze cooked food if you know you won't eat it all in 2-3 days.

dustytoes on 03/07/2013

I've had food poisoning three times in my adult life and it is not fun. All three times it was from eating something someone else had made, not me. I was very sick, I can see how people could die from it, but I did not know about these other problems it causes.
I have always told my kids, if you have doubts about how old food is in your fridge, throw it away - it is not worth the risk of getting sick.

Mira on 03/07/2013

I had no idea that you could get even meningitis as well as all the other serious conditions you list this way.

Yesterday on TV I briefly watched part of a documentary where a kid died from E.coli from a hamburger. The reason they gave was that animals, when they're slaughtered, are covered in manure, and part of this manure gets in the meat. I'm not sure I buy that. First of all, I assume they're washed some way or another and then they're also skinned, if it were true, everybody would get sick from beef.

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