Fiji Time: 3:05 PM on Monday 22 December

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The enemy within

Avinesh Gopal
Monday, February 27, 2012

IF you understand your enemies well, then you will be able to defeat them.

But if you don't understand them well, then they will certainly defeat you.

This is more so as far as the safety of the food that you eat daily is concerned.

Considering that your health is in your own hands, the onus lies on each individual to ensure what he or she eats is safe and not poisonous or infected.

FOOD-borne illnesses are of public health concern globally, regionally and even in Fiji.

Every year many individuals suffer the discomfort and pain resulting from food-borne illnesses. To prevent such illnesses, it is necessary for people to understand the bacteria that causes food poisoning.

The Ministry of Health's Food Unit head Samuela Bolalailai says if a person understands his or her enemy well, then they will certainly beat them.

But, he said, if a person could not understand his or her enemy, in this case the bacteria, then it would just kill them.

Mr Bolalailai said the term food poisoning was generally used to describe illnesses caused by all types of food-borne micro-organisms.

He said although the symptoms were similar, food poisoning and food infection were different.

"Confirmed food poisoning or food intoxication is caused by eating food that contains a toxin or poison because of bacterial growth in food," he said.

"The bacteria which produced and excreted the toxic waste products into the food may be killed but the toxin they produced causes the illness or digestive upset to occur."

He said Staphlococcus aureus and Clostridium botulinum were two species of bacteria that caused food poisoning.

He said food infection was the second type of food-borne illness caused by eating food that contained certain types of live bacteria which are present in the food.

Once the food is consumed, the bacterial cells continue to multiply and grow in numbers, resulting in illness.

Mr Bolalailai said Salmonellosis was a good example of food-borne illness.

He said Vibrio parahaemoliticus was another infection organism found primarily in shellfish from polluted waters.

"Clostridium perfringens grows in warm food like stews or gravies and produces toxins. It also causes a food infection by continuing to grow and producing toxins in the intestinal track."

The presence of micro-organisms or its toxins and the growth of bacteria causes food poisoning or food infection, he said.





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