Simple steps to avoid food poisoning
Food can become contaminated with dangerous bacteria at any point between preparation and consumption.
Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating food which has been contaminated by bacteria, chemicals or toxins. While in many instances persons may have mild symptoms, food poisoning can seriously affect those who are most vulnerable and thus can result in chronic health effects many years after the initial bout of food poisoning.
What causes food poisoning?
The most common causes of food poisoning include: infectious organisms (e.g. bacteria, viruses and parasites) or their toxins. Examples of some common organisms include: Norovirus, Salmonella spp., E. Coli. and Listeria spp.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
The most common symptoms of food poisoning are:
- cramps and stomach aches
- diarrhoea, sometimes bloody
- feeling of general malaise and fatigue
A person with food poisoning may also experience lightheadedness, dizziness and blurred vision.
How to prevent food poisoning
These simple food hygiene steps can prevent most food-borne diseases
- Wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation
- Wash your hands after going to the toilet
- Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation
- Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and other animals
Separate raw and cooked
- Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods
- Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cutting boards for handling raw foods
- Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods
- Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood
- Bring foods like soups and stews to boiling to make sure that they have reached 70°C. For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear, not pink. Ideally, use a thermometer
- Reheat cooked food thoroughly
Keep food at safe temperatures
- Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours •
- Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food (preferably below 5°C)
- Keep cooked food piping hot (more than 60°C) prior to serving •
- Do not store food too long even in the refrigerator
- Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature
Use safe water and raw materials
- Use safe water or treat it to make it safe
- Select fresh and wholesome foods
- Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurized milk
- Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw
- Do not use food beyond its expiry date
Members of the public should only purchase food from vendors with valid food badges which should be prominently displayed at all times.
What to do if you believe that you are suffering from food poisoning.
If you have mild symptoms that resolve within a few days then rest, drinking a lot of clear fluid and the use of over the counter medication may be sufficient.
Visit your doctor or nearest health centre if the person who is sick:
- is a child or elderly
- has severe symptoms ( e.g. diarrhoea, vomiting or stomach cramps)
- has a high fever lasting more than 2 days
- has difficulty breathing
- has blood in their vomit or stool
If you believe that your food poisoning was caused by food purchased from a food vendor or retail outlet then contact the office of the County Medical Officer of Health in your area via the contact information below:
- St. George East- John Shaw Avenue: Arima
- St. George Central- Corner Hassanali Street and El Socorro Main Road, San Juan
- St. George West- 3-5 Jerningham Avenue, Belmont
- St. Andrew/St. David- Cor. Blake Avenue & Eastern Main Road, Damarie Hill, Guaico
668-5987, 668-2055, 668-2053
- Victoria- 160 Pointe-a-Pierre Road, San Fernando
652-2016 ext. 3
- Nariva/Mayaro- Narine Ramrattan Building, Naparima Mayaro Road, Rio Claro
222-5005 ext. 3003
- Tobago-Robinson Street, Scarborough, Tobago
- Caroni, Southern Main Road, Couva
- St. Patrick-Siparia Administrative Complex, Siparia