Bacterial diseases can spread in a few different ways, but one of the most common ways is through foodborne pathogens. These illnesses can be very serious. You might be thinking of food poisoning as just a few (or longer) uncomfortable hours in the bathroom. However, for many affected, especially in vulnerable populations like children or the elderly, food poisoning can be fatal. Here are some of the common pathogens and how to avoid them.
1. E. coli
Many of us are familiar with E. coli through stories about outbreaks at fast food restaurants. That’s because the bacterium known as E. coli can have severe consequences and it did so when children ate burgers at the affected restaurants. While you can’t control how the cleanliness practices of your local burger joint, you can check the burgers and chicken sandwiches you get to make sure they’re cooked through. In addition, make sure to keep your (and your children’s) hands washed before eating. Another common source is unpasteurized beverages, including milk and juice, so stay away from those, especially if you’re immuno-compromised.
Salmonella is a bacterium that many of us likely associate with raw chicken. However, while it is often found in undercooked chicken and eggs, it can contaminate other foods, including fruits and vegetables. Like E. coli, it also can infiltrate unpasteurized liquids. So as with E. coli, make sure you wash your hands after using the restroom and cook meat through. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before you prepare them in any way. And as always, avoid drinking unpasteurized milk or juice.
The Listeria bacterium can cause a condition called listeriosis, which can have dire consequences for people with weaker immune systems, like children, the elderly, and pregnant women. It is commonly found in refrigerated food, like ready-to-eat items like sandwich meat. To avoid it, make sure to keep ready-to-eat food away from uncooked meat and generally, store your food safely.
Other common pathogens include norovirus, Toxoplasma gondii, Staphylococcus aureus, and Clostridium perfringens. While they may slightly differ in the foods they affect, the best way to avoid all of them is to use common sense practices when you’re cooking, storing, and preparing food. This means keeping food surfaces clean and sanitized, as well as making sure to keep yourself clean. We may never eradicate all illness, but we can do our best to prevent it.