Food poisoning and infection from Salmonella, e.Coli and other common harmful pathogens can happen to anyone at any time. However, for certain high-risk groups, the consequences of poor food safety can be fatal.
People who are at higher risk for developing significant food-borne illnesses are generally those who have compromised immune systems.
- children under five years of age
- sick people
- pregnant women and unborn children
- the elderly
The elderly are a particularly high-risk group. As we age, our digestive systems tend to become more sensitive. Older people generally produce less stomach acid than when they were younger, and the stomach lining becomes more delicate and sensitive to irritation. This allows bacteria to sneak past the stomach and into the digestive tract where it can cause food poisoning.
Food poisoning symptoms
Most people will begin to experience the symptoms of food poisoning quite quickly after eating the contaminated food. However, it can sometimes take days, weeks or even months for problems to arise, depending on the bacteria involved.
Food poisoning usually causes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or bloody stools, severe exhaustion or headaches, and fever. In high-risk groups, it can lead to organ failure, coma or death. Pregnant women may experience miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth.
If you or someone you know is in a high-risk group and believes that they’re experiencing food poisoning, contact a doctor and seek treatment as soon as possible.
Avoiding food poisoning
To lower your risk of falling victim to food poisoning, ensure that all perishable foods have been refrigerated within two hours of purchase. All frozen foods should be thoroughly thawed before cooking unless they are specifically designed to be cooked from frozen. Thaw foods in the refrigerator, rather than on the kitchen counter or in the sink.
Ready-to-eat and raw produce should always be kept separate from each other in order to avoid contamination. Furthermore, any uncooked meat should always be prepared on a non-porous chopping board, and hands should be washed thoroughly before and after handling different types of food.
Finally, avoid high-risk food that’s commonly associated with food poisoning – raw fish, shellfish, soft cheese and undercooked meat are all examples of foods that should be avoided.