Foodborne illnesses and gastro-intestinal infections can pose a serious threat to one’s health. Simple rules should be followed in order to minimise the risk of falling ill, namely: washing hands before eating, preparing only fresh food and its appropriate storage. Foodborne illness can happen at any season of the year, for instance, after eating a bad meal. Especially in summer bacteria multiply quickly in inappropriately stored food.

Contamination is hard to spot

"Food, egg and milk creams, minced meat, and fish in particular – stored in inappropriate conditions, for example, freezed and defrosted several times or heated inappropriately – are the perfect environment for the cultivation and production of enterotoxins. Such contamination can also include fruit and vegetables," said Jan Bondar, Spokesman of the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate (GIS)in an interview with the e-zdrowie website. He emphasised that it is difficult to establish whether a product is contaminated, as it does not have to necessarily influence its appearance, flavour or smell. The most common causes of gastro-intestinal infections are the Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli bacteria, and poisonings caused by staphylococcus toxin.

Guilty rotaviruses

On campsites, where it is difficult to maintain good hygiene, there is a risk of spreading viral diseases. "This concerns rotaviruses and adenoviruses which cause diarrhoea, especially in children. Before travelling to countries with a lower sanitary standard, remember about the possibility of vaccinating against hepatitis A (so called infectious hepatitis), which will make it possible to avoid infection with the virus," he said. The spokesperson also reminded that the source of diseases transmitted via the oral-faecal route is usually food from an infected animal or a sick person. "Many types of bacteria live in the gastro-intestinal route of farm animals. They may not be pathogenic for the animal, but they can cause serious diseases in people. The consumption of meals consisting of raw meat or insufficiently heat-treated meals always brings the risk of contracting the disease. Therefore, we should remember to store raw meat in a fridge in a way that protects other products from touching it and from possible contamination," said Mr Bondar.

Clean hands, fresh food

The risk of foodborne illnesses can be minimised by obeying the basic rules of hygiene during the preparation and consumption of food.

  • Raw meat and fish should be stored inside a covered container in the fridge or freezer.
  • Cooked meals should be put into the fridge as soon as they become cooler.
  • Meat should be properly defrosted and cooked.
  • Avoid drinking unpasteurised milk and eating raw eggs or undercooked meat.
  • Use a different board for raw products and a different one for products prepared ready for consumption.
  • Remember to wash your hands before you prepare food.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables with running water. Note! Some meals – though prepared according to the recipe – can be hazardous for some people, for instance, cheeses made of unpasteurised milk can cause listeriosis – a disease dangerous for pregnant women and people with a weak immune system.
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