What you don’t know could kill you

By Christina Braganza

April 7th marks the World Health Organisation’s International World Health day, with this year’s theme being something that affects both first and third world countries alike: food safety.

In Australian society it seems far-fetched that we should even think about what is in our food. Everything seems to be regulated, from farm standards right through to the temperature that food outlets must keep their food at. However the recent Hepatitis C outbreak from the consumption from frozen berries and the salmonella outbreak in Queensland show that no matter how developed a country is, it is still important to know where your food comes from.

As our food supply becomes more diversified and globalised there is an increased threat from viruses, bacteria, parasites and chemicals that certain foods can contain if not processed correctly. Together these account for over 200 foodborne diseases ranging from nausea to some types of cancers.

How do foodborne diseases occur?

Foodborne diseases occur via microorganisms or toxic chemicals. There are some good micro-organisms such as Lactobacillus found in yoghurt and supplements, yeast found in beer and bread, and microorganisms which help to make medication such as penicillin. However, there are some which can be dangerous. These include Salmonella, E. coli and Norovirus.

Usually microorganisms can be found everywhere but are found in the highest density in soil, water, rats, mice, insects and faeces. They are also found in humans, especially in the digestive tract where the good bacteria aid in digestion. This is the case with animals (farm, domestic and marine) as well.

These organisms can be transferred b various methods but usually need manual contact with another infected source for contamination to occur. Microorganisms and some viruses can be transferred via contaminated food or water. For example if someone handling food at a restaurant has Hepatitis A or Norovirus then these could be passed on to someone at the restaurant eating the contaminated food they prepared.

How can I tell if I have a food borne illness?

Find out more in the May edition of TAT Health Magazine