This article is the first of a two-part series of articles concerning food poisoning. Part I covers the various types of common food poisoning, how food becomes contaminated, and food that is most susceptible for food poisoning. Part II covers the best practices for preventing food poisoning.
Normally, food poisoning is just an annoyance as normally you’ll just be sick for a few days. Granted, you may wish you were dead. But, you’ll survive. However, when the SHTF or if you are in an outdoor survival situation food poisoning can be life threatening. Below is an introduction to the various common type of food poisoning.
The three types of food poisoning are intoxicants, infections, and food contamination. The are explained below:
Food infection happens when you eat foods containing harmful microorganisms. Salmonella and E. coli are the most common types of foodborne infections. You may mistake a foodborne infection for the GI flu or vice versa. Symptoms of food infection poisoning are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or distress, and prostration. Figuring out that you are suffering from food infection is tricky as you’ll get sick only around 6 to 24 hours after eating infected food.
Food infection microorganisms thrive in moist environments and protein foods. Therefore, shellfish and meat products are most likely to be subject to food infection as they tend to be moist and are also protein foods. Also, infected food normally look fine, doesn’t smell and tastes fine. So, other than lab tests, there is nothing you can do to find out if food is infected.
FoodBorne Intoxication happens when bacteria under favorable conditions for growth produces certain toxic substances which causes food poisoning. It takes approximately eight hours for staphylococci toxins to multiply to the point where food intoxication occurs. The defense against this bacteria is the proper handling of food and sanitation as staphylococcus infection, can’t be removed by cooking. Foodborne intoxication symptoms occur around two to four hours after eating intoxicated food. The symptoms of foodborne intoxication poisoning are dysentery, weakness with little or no fever, and vomiting.
Staphylococci is the main type of bacteria associated with foodborne intoxication and occurs before the food is eaten. It takes approximately eight hours for staphylococci toxins to multiply for it to be dangerous. Staphylococcus intoxication is most likely to happen when eating starchy foods, (custards, pies, and potato salads are examples) pork, pork products (ham, salami, etc.), and chicken products.
The improper handling of food and poor sanitation are the main reasons for staphylococci intoxication. For example, when not refrigerated, staphylococci multiplies in ham. Also, infected staphylococcal food is caused by boils, pimples, infected cuts and the bodily discharge of food preparers.
A rare, but deadly (18% of people die from eating botulism-tainted food) form of food intoxication is botulism. The improper canning of low acidic foods is the most frequent cause of botulism intoxication. However, cases of botulism have also occurred with home canned meats, smoked fish and even potpies. The symptoms of botulism infection are at first headaches, dizziness, and weakness and it can eventually lead to heart failure or respiratory failure.
Miscellaneous poisons cover naturally poisonous foods like mushrooms and also food naturally poisoned by individuals. These type of poisons damage your nervous system. The main symptoms of natural food poisoning are paralysis, numbness, weakness, ear tingling, sense of apprehension, and eventually death.
Poisons that naturally occur in plants or animals are considered natural poisons. An extreme example of this is the Japanese puffer fish which if it is not properly prepared this fish is a lethal poison.
Mushrooms and berries are the most common naturally poisonous foods. However, there are many other types of foods that are naturally poisonous, and there is food that is normally considered safe to eat that can turn poisonous under certain conditions. For example, a barracuda can become poisonous after it comes in contact with a certain type of plankton. Also, scallops, mussels, oysters, and clams can become deadly when “red tide” occurs. Also, rhubarb leaves are poisonous. But, the roots are edible.
Food poisons also happen through either intentional or accidental food contamination. Most likely this happens through the shoddy processing, harvesting or storing food. For example, food may be contaminated by insecticides or cleaning supplies. Also, food contamination can even happen by using cadmium plated or galvanized pitchers or cans.