Monday, August 27, 2018

What are foodborne diseases?

Foodborne diseases are infections or irritations of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract caused by food or beverages that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, or chemicals. Food may become contaminated by a variety of different agents, resulting in over 250 different foodborne diseases. Foodborne disease has emerged as an important and growing public health and economic problem in many countries during the last two decades.

The proportions of the population who are elderly, immunosuppressed or otherwise disproportionately susceptible to severe outcomes from foodborne diseases are growing in many countries. Globalization of the food supply has led to the rapid and widespread international distribution of foods.

Foodborne diseases can damage the structure and function of the intestines, leading to malabsorption, and can weaken the body’s immune system. When certain disease-causing bacteria or pathogens contaminate food, they can cause foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning”. Foods that are contaminated may not look, taste or smell any different from foods that are safe to eat. Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and Escherichia coli are the most common bacteria causing foodborne illness.

Most foodborne diseases are infectious, caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites. Approximately 66% of all foodborne illness outbreaks are caused by bacterial pathogens. Of the 200 foodborne outbreaks reported each year, approximately 60% are of undetermined etiology.

Foodborne bacteria are often naturally present in food, and in the right conditions, a single bacterium can grow into more than two million bacteria in just seven hours.

Foodborne illness is a significant public health problem with major economic and social effects. Changed agricultural practices are part of the problem. Antibiotic use in farm animals is the primary cause of the increase in salmonellosis, now a major foodborne disease.

In countries with poor sanitation conditions, diarrheal illness is a leading cause of mortality and malnutrition in young children. Fish tapeworm infections have not been associated with properly canned commercial fish, but the larval parasite can survive up to 400 days in iced fish.

Food is produced in the primary industry sector (agriculture, aquaculture, fishing) and continues through manufacturing and retail to be prepared and consumed by the Australian public. Organisms causing foodborne illness can enter this food production chain at any stage. As a result of the increased global trade in food it is also likely outbreaks covering larger areas and affecting several countries will be recognized in larger numbers in the future.

Foodborne illnesses causes some combination of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that may or may not be bloody, sometimes with other symptoms. After eating tainted food, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting can start as early as one hour or within three days depending on the foodborne pathogen, type of toxin and level of food contamination.
What are foodborne diseases?
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