5 foodborne illnesses: how to avoid them?

Most of the foods that are consumed by humans serve as a habitat for the proliferation of various microorganisms. When any of these pathogens enter the body, it could cause serious problems. Known as illnesses caused by improper food treatment. That is why we explain in detail everything about these conditions and how to avoid them.

It is estimated that approximately 1 in 10 people gets sick from eating food contaminated. And an approximate 420,000 people die from these illnesses caused by wrong food practices. They affect children most of all, since their immune systems are not yet developed to deal with health problems.

What are diseases caused by eating food?

They are a set of conditions that are acquired by consuming contaminated food or even beverages. Either due to improper handling of the preparation or due to a manufacturing error in the products.

Initially, they are diseases caused by microorganisms such as viruses, some fungi, various types of bacteria and also parasites. However, certain chemicals that are present in food are also responsible for the appearance of these diseases. The WHO (World Health Organization) has highlighted that thousands of people in a year are affected by the consumption of contaminated food or ingesting contaminated water.

Despite the foodborne illness affect the general population, as already mentioned, children and also the elderly are more vulnerable. Although people who suffer from a chronic degenerative condition, they could experience quite serious symptoms.

Why is food contaminated?

Contamination in food occurs from where it originates. This is due to inappropriate hygiene practices at the time of production. Which normally occurs with watering in fruits and vegetables. Or it is also due to the misuse of medicines in animals, in the case of meats.

Another way it happens food contamination, is due to improper handling of hygiene measures when preparing food. But it is also a situation that occurs when distributing and storing them. Among the main things that cause these pollution problems are:

– Few hygiene measures on the part of the personnel in charge of food handling.

– Use tools, utensils or equipment that are contaminated.

– Cross contamination in foods that are ready to be consumed.

– Use raw material or contaminated water.

– Presence of animals that can be harmful when preparing food, such as rodents or some insects.

How to prevent food from being contaminated?

Some measures recommended by the WHO have been established to avoid health problems caused by food:

– Avoid using water and raw materials, of which it is suspected that they are contaminated.

– Adequately clean the food to be consumed.

– Do not mix foods that are raw with those that have been cooked.

– Cook food very well.

– Food must remain stored at an appropriate temperature, if it is not going to be consumed at the moment.

Applying all these measures is essential, since the bacteria that cause the foodborne illness, they proliferate at temperatures around 60 degrees. Therefore, food has to be kept refrigerated.

For the most part, this class of pathologies generate gastrointestinal symptoms. However, there is a variation in these symptoms depending on the condition that is present. Between the foodborne illness most common are:

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Hemolytic uremic syndrome

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This is a disease caused by the infection of bacteria that reach the gastrointestinal part. Strains corresponding to E.coli are the ones that usually cause this problem. Although it affects adults, there is a greater vulnerability in children. The toxins that are released by this bacterium, destroy the red blood cells and in turn produce alterations in different organs. This being a very deadly result for those who have been affected.

As its main characteristic, it is a disease that produces severe diarrhea, even becoming bloody diarrhea. It produces nausea or in some cases vomiting, fatigue, lethargy and decreased urine production. In addition to that, due to the uncontrolled destruction of red blood cells, the filtration in the kidneys becomes blocked and causes severe kidney failure.

When the disease has progressed too far, the patient experiences neurological symptoms, such as nosebleeds, seizures as well as bruises. The most appropriate treatment for this condition requires antibiotics, hospitalization, and in more severe cases, dialysis.

Cooking meats correctly is the best way to prevent a disease like this. In this way, the proper temperature for cooking meats is 70 degrees. You also have to avoid the intake of raw milk, as well as other dairy products that have not been properly processed.


It is one of the foodborne illness that is best known in the world. Produced by a bacteria called Salmonella, which is normally found in the human and animal intestines. Depending on the strain of bacteria, the disease may develop in the body. Although it also depends on the amount of bacteria that have been ingested through food.

From 12 or 36 weeks the development of the symptoms of this condition occurs. The person who has been affected suffers from very high fever, nausea, severe diarrhea and abdominal pain. Faced with a disease like this there is a very high risk of dehydration, so it will be very important to stay hydrated.


A gastrointestinal infection such as anisakiasis is caused by a parasite known as anisakis. It is not simply capable of causing this condition, it is also the cause of certain food allergies after being consumed.

Those who become infected with this parasite do not experience a fever. But if it causes severe stomach pain, constipation, nausea accompanied by vomiting, and if the case is very serious, an intestinal obstruction occurs. In the presence of allergies, skin rashes or even anaphylactic shock are observed.

To avoid anisakiasis, it is essential to cook the fish very well. In case these foods are not consumed instantly, it is advisable to preserve them marinated. It is also a good idea to freeze them for at least 24 hours before cooking, so bacteria can be killed.

Since normally this bacterium is found in greater quantities in fish, it is good to know the potentially contaminated varieties, as in the case of hake. Likewise, it must be remembered that these bacteria are concentrated in the intestinal tract. So it will be necessary to extract the guts from the fish, and then wash the meat very well.


It is a condition caused by a bacterium called listeria monocytogenes, which causes another of the foodborne illness more serious and common. This pathogen is found both in wild animals, as well as in domestic animals. Although it is also possible to find this bacterium in marine animals. Therefore, if meat and fish do not go through proper hygiene measures, this bacteria will be very easily found in those foods.

Although listeria causes gastrointestinal symptoms, other problems that it also generates are meningitis and septicemia. Causing serious damage to the organs, taking into account the area that has been infected. In this way, if it affects a pregnant woman it would cause a spontaneous abortion. And if it crosses the placenta, affecting the fetus, the risk of death of the newborn is seriously increased.

The treatment that is prescribed for this disease requires antibiotics, since in this way it is possible to eliminate the bacteria in its entirety.


Of all the illnesses that are transmitted by food, botulism is one of the most serious. The toxin that is produced by a bacterium known as Clostridium botulinum, is the cause of this condition. There are two types of botulism, and the one that is acquired by eating food is due to previous contamination with the toxin of that bacterium. Being these acquired through the land where food is grown.

Because the toxin produces strong alterations in the functioning of neurons and destroys the body's cells, the symptoms are different from the previous cases. It causes blurred vision, difficulties in speaking as well as breathing, muscle weakness, dry mouth, among other symptoms.

Antitoxins are usually administered and the person is hospitalized until the symptoms of this disease have completely disappeared.


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