Food poisoning on vacation: the foods to pay (very) attention to

Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea and sometimes fever. These are just a few symptoms from food poisoning. Although food poisoning cases in Italy are below the European average, it remains important to treat and store food correctly. Especially in summer when the risks in this sense increase because we tend to consume more cold dishes, generally based on raw meat and fish, and more vegetables caught and immediately eaten. This is why they are not always washed properly. Particular attention, then, if you decide to go abroad: first of all, because if we come across a toxic infection, we don’t have a trusted doctor at hand. Then why in some countries there are more chances of contracting gastrointestinal viruses from spoiled food. What not to eat to feel good, and what to do in case we were caught by a food poisoning explains it here Edoardo Mocinisurgeon, specialist in food science, but also a researcher as well as chee winner of the latest edition of the Cook Awards in the Food reporting category.

Doctor, what is meant by food poisoning?

Food poisoning are pathological manifestations caused by the ingestion of food products contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms and / or their toxic metabolites. Toxins so to speak. They can be divided into three categories.
Infections: they are caused by the consumption of food contaminated by pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and parasites capable of reproducing in the host’s tissues. Examples of food infections are salmonellosis and listeriosis.
Poisoning: they are caused by the ingestion of food contaminated with toxins alone. In these cases, in fact, the presence of the vital pathogenic microorganism is not necessary. An example is botulism caused by Clostridium botulinum.
Toxinfections: they are caused by the consumption of foods containing both the pathogenic microorganism and the toxins it produces. Syndromes caused by are an example Bacillus cereus And Clostridium perfrigens. Symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and vomiting) generally affect the gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes they are accompanied by a rise in body temperature, asthenia and generalized fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle pain and headache.
Food poisoning can potentially be dangerous for children, pregnant women, the elderly and immunosuppressed individuals. In these cases it is necessary to pay particular attention and take the necessary precautions. Then there is the chapter “contamination“.

That is?

We can talk about primary contamination if the food undergoes contamination at origin. If, on the other hand, the contamination occurs during the production process, we speak of secondary contamination. The latter essentially due to bad handling, transport, storage and conservation of raw materials or processed products.

If the holidays are in Italy, how much do we risk?

I would say little. The good news is that, in recent decades, in the most industrialized countries there has been one reduction of cases of food-borne infections thanks to the introduction of specific rules governing food hygiene. In Italy, and more generally in the European community, the so-called “Hygiene Package” has been in force since 2006, a set of rules governing the entire food chain, from farm to fork, and which guarantee safety food safety (food safety) understood as the hygiene and healthiness of a food, thus protecting the health of the consumer. At the base there a self-control system based on the HACCP system (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), whose objective is to help the food business operator to identify the risks and the related critical production points, in order to manage them in advance and thus guarantee the food safety.

If, on the other hand, we go abroad, which countries should we pay more attention to?

I would say the equatorial and tropical areas: they are the most at risk. In particular, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and all those areas where hygienic conditions are poor. Every year a good percentage of those traveling to these countries contracted food poisoning, often characterized by frequent episodes of diarrheal discharge associated with vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps and malaise. This pathological picture, commonly defined “traveler’s diarrhea”, Is mainly caused by the ingestion of contaminated food and water and generally resolves within a few days without special treatment. Only in some cases may antibiotic therapy be necessary always to be agreed with the doctor. Do-it-yourself not contemplated.

Which foods should we pay more attention to?

Non-drinking water, raw fruit and vegetables, raw or undercooked meats, poultry and derivatives, eggs and egg products. Namely sauces, creams and artisanal ice creams. To raw fish and seafood, milk and unpasteurized dairy products.

On the other hand, what are the safest foods?

Cooked ones, peeled fruit with your own hand, coffee, tea, beer, wine and alcoholic beverages in general, to always be consumed in moderation.

Can travelers take effective preventive measures?

Certainly yes. Just follow small tricks without alarmism. First of all, it is necessary to avoid the ingestion of fruit and vegetables with the peel and raw or undercooked fish and meat. Important, then, consume only bottled drinks, avoiding bulk ones and tap water. Finally, it is better not to consume loose foods, generally sold on the street by street vendors.

How can we prevent food poisoning at home and outside?

Always washing your hands before handling any food. Disinfecting all work surfaces, tools that come into contact with food (knives, cutting board, etc.) and the fridge. Then keeping insects and animals away from the table. By separating meat, poultry and fish from other foods, using different containers and kitchen utensils. When we then use containers and tools to handle raw foods, we pay attention not to use the same ones for cooked ones: in this case we could encounter what is technically called cross contamination.

Other precautions?

Eggs, poultry, meat and fish products must be well cooked to avoid any risk. Do we want to eat raw fish? Okay, as long as it was subjected to correct thermal abatement procedures. When we then defrost the products, always do it in the refrigerator or microwave. Cooked foods should be stored in the cold, that is, in the refrigerator. While vegetables, especially if we decide to eat them raw, must be washed very carefully. And again, let’s try to drink only safe and drinkable water. And we avoid the consumption of foods with an unpleasant appearance and / or smell.

What to do if we get food poisoning?

Each case must be evaluated in s. In principle, I always recommend, before leaving, to consult your doctor, perhaps to get a prescription for mineral salts, lactic ferments and paracetamol. for any problem. Then, if abroad, I suggest you call your travel insurance – always useful to subscribe – for assistance and, if necessary, visit a local doctor.

Doctor, in times of pandemics, monkeypox and whatnot, how high is the risk of getting food poisoning?

The latest annual report on zoonoses, zoonotic agents and outbreaks of foodborne diseases in the European Union was published in December 2021 by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) and ECDC (European Center for Prevention and disease control). This One-Health document includes data for the year 2020 collected in 36 European countries (27 member states and 9 non-member states). The results show that the most frequent zoonosis is campylobacteriosis (60 per cent, about 121 thousand cases compared to 220 thousand registered in the previous year). Following we find salmonellosis, yersinia enterocolitica, escherichia coli STEC and listeriosis. In general, the results show the lowest number of cases of foodborne infections ever recorded. However, the sharp decline was certainly influenced by some factors including the Covid-19 pandemic, which severely limited travel and public events, instead favoring the use of personal protective equipment (gloves, masks) and disinfectants. This confirms what a proper hygiene can be influential in prevention food poisoning.

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Food poisoning on vacation: the foods to pay (very) attention to


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