A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology wanted to test out if using disinfectant wipes to clean the kitchen could reduce the risk of food poisoning. The research team used wipes on different counter top materials – granite, laminate, and ceramic tile – to determine if it would reduce the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria.
Their results were entered into a computer to calculate potential risk, and found that using disinfectant wipes could reduce the ingestion of bacteria up to 99.2 percent. This means the risk of developing food poisoning went from 2:10 to 2:1000.
Lead researcher, Dr. Gerardo Lopez, said, “The scary thing about Campylobacter is that you really don’t need to ingest that many bacteria to get a nasty illness, so we have to wipe clean our kitchen surfaces and wash our hands after preparing poultry.”
“We found that it’s not just the physical removal of bacteria by the wipe that helps — the antibacterial solution left behind on the counter surface continues to disinfect over the next few minutes. It’s also important that consumers clean up with a wipe straight after preparing poultry. If drips and splatters from the meat remain, bacteria can transfer to other foods from dirty surfaces and utensils. If the area is allowed to dry, the bacteria can sometimes stick to the work surface making it even harder to get clean, later,” Dr. Lopez added.
Although researchers only tested the effectiveness of wipes to eliminate Campylobacter they are hopeful that they could also reduce the risk of illness from other common food poisoning bacteria, such as salmonella and E.coli.
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is the result of eating contaminated food. This can be due to bacteria, viruses, parasites or any form of toxin. Food poisoning is not just something that occurs in restaurants, though. It can very well happen any place food is prepared and stored.
Any type of food item, but meat especially, should be stored and prepared properly. This means being kept at appropriate temperatures to maintain freshness as well as being cooked thoroughly.
Bacteria, for example, can get into food items either through contaminated water, not properly washing the food item, using dirty utensils, handling food with unwashed hands, or cross contamination, which can happen by keeping raw chicken and vegetables together. Food also can get contaminated by leaving it out for too long and in higher temperatures, especially if the item is frozen. Defrosting and reheating an item can also lead to contamination as well.
Germs that cause food poisoning
There are many different types of viruses and bacteria that can lead to food poisoning, some more easily treatable than others. Here are some common bacteria and germs that cause food poisoning:
- E. coli
- Staphylococcus aureus
These germs can contaminate food that is stored improperly, handled poorly, or even not cooked properly. Therefore, it’s of utmost importance to handle all raw food items with care.
Signs and symptoms of food poisoning
Depending on the type of contamination, food poisoning can occur within six hours or less, or even take up to a day for signs and symptoms to show. How long does food poisoning last? Well, once again that depends on the bacteria or virus.
Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of food poisoning:
- Watery diarrhea
- Abdominal pains and cramps
These signs and symptoms can become quite severe and medical attention is advised. These are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning that call for medical intervention:
- Inability to keep liquids down, which leads to frequent vomiting
- Blood in stool or vomit
- Diarrhea spanning over three days
- Severe abdominal pain
- Fever of 101.5 F (38.6 C)
- Dehydration symptoms, including dry mouth, dizziness, no urination, severe weakness, excessive thirst
- Changes in vision and muscle weakness
As mentioned, most food poisoning can be easily treated and others will pass on their own depending on the form of contamination.
Treatment of food poisoning
Basic treatment of food poisoning is replenishing lost fluids and taking antibiotics. Drinking water may not be enough to fully restore the body with lost nutrients, such as potassium and sodium, so drinking an enriched sports beverage may be more helpful. Antibiotics, on the other hand, generally are prescribed when symptoms are serious and a doctor can determine the exact strain of bacteria. If symptoms of food poisoning are not severe, over the counter medicines to ease diarrhea and stomach cramping may be useful.
Natural remedies for food poisoning involve avoiding eating larger, heavy meals – you may want to stay clear of steak and potatoes for a while. Sticking to items like bananas and toast will be easier on your stomach. Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, dairy products and heavily seasoned foods – the blander the food item, the better. Rest as much as possible. Without eating like you normally do, you’ll be weaker, so it’s best not to strain yourself even more.
Common food items that can lead to food poisoning
Although any food item can lead to food poisoning, there are some food items that can be more prone to contamination. They are:
- Chicken and steak
- Dairy products
- Eggs and egg products – quiche for example
Some fish, like the puffer fish, contain their own poison, and when it is not prepared properly it can cause neurological damage. Other meat, like steak and chicken, when left out for too long or undercooked, can increase the risk of food poisoning as well. In regard to dairy products, it is how these items are prepared. Unpasteurized milk, for example, can lead to illness.
One thing to be mindful of is water. Water may not seem harmful, but it can be a real cause of food poisoning, especially if you are away from home. If you’re in a foreign country, be mindful of the water as it may not be as filtered as you’re used to. This can lead to illness whether you drink it or even wash your food with it.
Who’s at risk for food poisoning?
Anyone can be affected by food poisoning, but children and seniors are at greater risk due to weaker immune systems. Other groups at risk of food poisoning are those with a pre-existing medical condition, such as kidney disease and diabetes. Travelers are also at a greater risk for food poisoning as different countries have different standards for food preparation. In warmer countries, food may be sitting out for longer, increasing the risk of contamination.
Food poisoning prevention
If you want to continue to enjoy food without ending up in the hospital, follow these tips to prevent food poisoning from occurring:
- Always wash your hands before handling food and in between handling different food items.
- Always wash cutting boards and surfaces that food has been placed on.
- Use different cutting boards for different food items.
- Separate meat from other ingredients.
- Cook food thoroughly.
- Keep your fridge below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cool leftovers quickly – within 90 minutes – and store it in the fridge.
- Always follow “best before” dates, especially with dairy products.
These tips can help ensure you get the most out of your food safely. Food should provide us with nutrients and energy, not a trip to the hospital. By being aware of how we are handling and preparing our food, we can prevent food poisoning and continue to enjoy those tasty, healthy meals.