What is food poisoning?


Food poisoning is an acute inflammation of the lining of the stomach and small intestine. There is pain in the abdomen with a feeling of nausea followed by vomiting, diarrhea and weakness. Food poisoning is caused by microorganisms, like bacteria and fungi in the food. Other causes of food poisoning may be allergy of some persons to certain food items, which may act as poison to them or excessive indulgence in alcohol. However, here we will discuss only the food poisoning caused by microorganisms. Microorganisms cause food poisoning by two ways:

By excessive growth of bacteria and fungi in the food.

By the presence of toxins in the food which are formed in the process of growth of bacteria and fungi.

Food Spoilage

If food is not preserved properly, then it gets spoiled due to the action of enzymes and also by the action of bacteria and fungi which grow in it. Generally, but not always we can come to know about the stale food from its unpleasant smell and bad taste. Such a food when eaten leads to food poisoning. Bacteria and spores of fungi are always present in air. They are also sticking to the containers of the food, to our unwashed hands, and unwashed vegetables and fruits. They grow and multiply by eating the nutrients present in the food and in the process spoil it. Canned food products, meats, fish, pastry, milk are the common food products, which generally get spoiled and cause food poisoning. We shall now study some examples of food poisoning caused by certain bacteria and fungi.

Bacteria Salmonella

Bacteria Salmonella come in meat, egg, milk and milk products from animals. Consumption of these contaminated food products causes infection in the intestine. The result is food poisoning with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and pain in the abdomen.

Bacteria Sta Phylococci

Bacteria Sta Phylococci produces a heat resistant toxin. Therefore, the infected food contains toxin in it even after the bacteria themselves get killed due to heat produced during cooking.

Bacteria Clostridium Botulinum causes a rare but dangerous from of food poisoning Food poisoning caused by these bacteria is known as BOTULISM. Generally, the canned food products harbor this bacterium. Bacteria Clostridiums Botulinum multiplies in the absence of oxygen and produces a toxin. However, food can be made free of this infection by cooking it for few minutes at a temperature of 1000 C. That is why in the factories, which produce canned food, all the canned food products are heated to a temperature of 1000 C to destroy all the bacteria like clostridium Botulinum and their toxin produced by them.

Besides bacteria, some fungi also cause food poisoning. Fungus Aspergillus grows on grains such as wheat, rice, maize and vegetables. This fungus can be seen groundnuts, which are not properly stored and remain moist for long time. Fungus Aspergillus produces a toxin known as Aflatoxin, which causes food poisoning by damaging the liver.


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