Dr Miriam Stoppard's Health Focus: Food Poisoning - Beware of the Bugs

Article excerpt

Byline: Miriam Stoppard

CHRISTMAS is a time to enjoy food and drink - so it's miserable if you're knocked out of the festivities by food poisoning.

But with all rush to get everything done, the turkey may not be properly defrosted before cooking, or leftovers stay out too long before being put in the fridge, causing bugs to multiply.

If you're unfortunate enough to suffer food poisoning over the festive season, Miriam gives a guide on how to cope - and where to find the blame.

FOOD poisoning can be caused by many different bugs, toxins found in some seafood, or poisons in some plants and mushrooms.

It is usually suspected when several members of a household - or customers at a restaurant - become ill after eating the same food.

Each year there are more than 60,000 confirmed cases in the UK causing, on average, around 60 deaths.

The five most common food-borne bacteria are:

Salmonella

Campylobacter

Listeria monocytogenes.

E Coli

Clostridium perfringens

Other causes

VIRAL

CERTAIN viruses are implicated over and over again in food poisoning. They are astravirus, rotavirus and Norwalk virus (a common contaminant of shellfish).

They tend to cause food poisoning when the source of foodstuffs are eaten raw or partly cooked after being in contact with water contaminated with faeces.

NON-INFECTIVE

THESE include poisonous mushrooms and toadstools. Chemical poisoning can also occur if food has been stored in a container previously containing something toxic, or if acidic fruit juice is kept in a metal container made partly of zinc.

Various exotic foods (for example puffer fish, considered a delicacy in Japan, or cassava, a staple food in many tropical countries) can also cause moderate to lethal poisoning if improperly prepared and cooked.PREGNANCY HAZARDS

LISTERIOSIS

FOODS found to contain large numbers of listeria bacteria include soft cheese, unpasteurised milk, ready-prepared coleslaw, cooked chilled foods, pates and improperly cooked meat.

Listeria bacteria are normally destroyed at pasteurising temperatures, but if food is infected and refrigerated, bacteria may go on multiplying. So avoid chilled food after the best-by date.

Listeriosis can spread through direct contact with infected live animals, such as sheep. Symptoms are flu-like: a high temperature and aches and pains, sore throat and eyes, diarrhoea and stomach pain. An unborn child affected through its mother's blood may be stillborn, and listeriosis may be a cause of recurrent miscarriage.

SALMONELLA

INFECTION can often be traced to eggs and chicken meat, so avoid foods containing raw eggs; cook eggs and chicken well and go for free-range eggs and fowl.

Symptoms include headache, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, shivering and fever, which develop suddenly 12-48 hours after infection. They last about two to three days. If the infection has spread into the bloodstream, antiobiotics will be needed.

TOXOPLASMOSIS

THIS is a common infection picked up by eating raw or uncooked pork or steak, or by coming into contact with faeces of infected cats and dogs, mainly from litter trays. …