Essay On Health Impact Of Eating Contaminated Food

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Food, Health, Pollution, Viruses, Medicine, Poisoning, Water, Mercury

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/03/17

Health Impact of Eating Contaminated Food

Introduction: “We are what we eat”. Very few people are really attentive about what they eat and the impact of that on their health. For most of us, food is just a habit to satisfy hunger or, a luxury to pamper the senses. We find people taking extreme care of what they wear and what they look; but when it comes to food, everything is taken for granted. The only factors that most people are concerned in food, is its taste. Like the saying “all that shines is not gold”, “all that is food is not healthy”. Approximately 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths in U.S are caused by contaminated food ( 2015). In Australia, 5.4 million people are estimated to be affected by food poisoning every year ( 2015). This figure is quite high considering the population of the country. In the past, people had time to cook their own food, but in modern times, most people don’t cook and they prefer to eat outside home. The risk of food borne illness is high among people who eat food prepared outside. Elderly, children, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals are at higher risk of food contamination when compared to healthy adults. Proper handling of food from the farm to table is required to reduce food contamination.
Food contaminants are substances, which are unintentional introduced into the food and make food unhealthy. Food can become contaminated by variety of mechanisms: inadequate washing, cross contamination, improper storage and cooking temperature, and contamination of food by human or animal waste. Pathogens and fecal matter in hands can contaminate food, when the person touches the food and kitchen tools, without washing the hand properly. Cross contamination happens when the contaminants are transferred from other food sources, by unwashed kitchen tool, or any other form of physical contact. Pathogen, in food should be present in sufficient numbers to cause illness. Freezing and refrigeration, prevents the growth and multiplication of pathogenic organisms in food. Likewise, heating food to high temperature during cooking can kill most pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites. Thus food stored or cooked at inadequate temperature, causes growth of pathogen and leads to food borne illness. Contaminants can originate from plastic coatings and tin used for packaging and storing of food. Meat and poultry can be contaminated by small intestinal contents, during slaughtering. Animal products can also get contaminated with residues of veterinary drugs or growth promoting agents. Fruits and vegetables become contaminated when washed in water contaminated with human sewage or animal wastes. Contaminants can be divided broadly into: physical, chemical and biological. Examples and health risk associated with each type are discussed below.
Physical contaminantsin food and health effects:Stalks in grapes or other fruits, egg shell in your egg omelet, soil or stone particles in rice, bones in filleted meat, a bolt of the processing plant in the food package, hair of the chef in food; are all examples of physical contamination. Physical contaminant can be avoided by taking utmost care at each stage of food processing. Physical contaminants are relatively easy to detect and avoid in food. They can also cause difference in taste and texture of food. Mechanical injury to the gastrointestinal track is possible, if a sharp object gains entry through the food. Physical contaminant could act as fomites, carrying infectious parasite. (Hemminger 2000)
Chemical contaminants in food and health effect: Chemical contaminants are introduced into food during food production and processing process. Chemical from the farm, a cleaning product used in the packaging industry, fly spray used in kitchen can all act as chemical contaminants. Toxic metals can enter food during the processing process. Lead is used to prevent acescence of wine. Though it usage is banned, it is often used as an adulterant by wine makers to stope ropiness in wine. Lead can be detected in most food item, but only few foods have lead in high amounts. It was agreed internationally, to keep lead content in food to less than 0.01 part per million. Lead is a serious risk to public health. It accumulates in the skeleton, can cross the blood brain barrier and placenta. Lead reduces cognitive development and intellectual performance in children. In adults, it causes high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. Cadmium and mercury are other common toxic metal contaminants seen in food. Cadmium is used in paint industries. It is also used as an alloy in metals. Shellfish, cigarette smoke, welding and paints can acts as source of cadmium contamination of food. The metal is absorbed through intestine and lungs. Cadmium causes emphysema, kidney dysfunction, skeletal deformities, reproductive deficiencies and lung cancer. It interferes with calcium absorption and metabolism. River water that is polluted by cadmium from mining activities can contaminate rice, when used for irrigating rice fields. Mercury occurs in soil and air. It enters food through contaminated air or water. Mercury contamination is common in fish and fish products. The organic form of mercury called methyl mercury is the most toxic, and is easily absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. It causes cerebral palsy in children. Fifty years ago, mercury poisoning from fishes in MinimataBay, was responsible for high rate of cerebral palsy noticed in Japanese children during this period. Mercury impairs normal brain development in infants and causes neurological deficits in adults. Elemental mercury is converted to methyl mercury by bacteria. According to US EPA, fishes and fish products with mercury content above 1 part per billion are considered toxic and should be discarded.
Nonmetallic food contaminants are also capable of causing health concerns. For example, chloropropanols that are produced in food during processing were found to have potent carcinogenic properties. Their presence in food, even in small amounts is undesirable. Several chloropropanols are identified in food of which:3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol (3-MCPD), but other food borne chloropropanols include 2-monochloro-1,3-propandiol (2-MCPD), 1,3-dichloro-2-propanol (1,3-DCP) and 2,3-dichloro-2-propanol (2,3-DCP) are most common and well-studied.
Chloropropanols are thought to be produced, by the high temperature used for processing certain food. Acid hydrolyzed vegetable proteins (AHVP) have high levels of chloropropanols. AHVP is used in savory foods such as soups, prepared meals, savory snacks, gravy mixes and bouillon cubes. Chloropropanols were also identified in bread, biscuits; other baked products, coffee, roasted barley malt, certain cured, fermented-meat products, cheeses, salted fish and smoked foods. Domestic cooking like grilled cheese and meat also has chloropropanols. However the levels are lower than in AHVP. Acute toxicity requires very high quantities of chloropropanol, and is less likely to happen from contaminated food. The major concern from food safety point of view is consuming chloropropanols in low doses, over a long period of time. 3-MCPD and 1, 3-DCP, were found to be carcinogenic at low doses. The recommended maximum tolerable daily intake (PMTDI) of chloropropanols is 2 mg/kg body weight. (Schrenk 2012)
Dioxins are polychlorinated aromatic compounds produced during chemical processing of food. It is measured in part per trillion. It is a major byproduct of chemical industry, such as paints, steel, pesticides, synthetic chemicals, wood pulp and paper bleaching. It is also produced naturally during volcanic eruptions and forest fires. Most common cause of environmental pollutions is incineration.Dioxin is fat soluble and tends to concentrates in the fatty tissues of beef and dairy cattle, poultry, pork and seafood. Humans, who take animal food contaminated with dioxin, accumulate dioxin in the fat tissues. Dioxin has broad range of toxic effect in human. It is recognised as a carcinogen. Apart from this, Dioxin caused damage to the immune and reproductive systems, in lab animals. Dioxin can cause developmental defects and neuro-behavioral defects in humans. Acute exposure to dioxin causes severe and prolonged skin diseases: chloracne.(Schrenk 2012)
Acrylamide used for treating drinking water and sewage water can contaminate food. French fires and potato chips have high acrylamide content. Heating potato above 1200C, produces acrylamide. Acrylamide is a well-known neurotoxin agent. It was found to cause cancer in rodents. Its carcinogenic potential in human is still unclear. (Schrenk 2012)
Organochlorine poisoning is a common food poisoning in agricultural commodities from Australia (Worsley & Scott 2000). Long term chronic exposure of organochlorine in food causes anorexia, hepatotoxicity, renal toxicity, CNS disturbances, headache, skin irritations and fatigue.
Biological contaminants of food and health effects:Microbial cells are present in air, water and soil. Food provides the necessary nutrients required for their growth. Bacteria, virus, yeast, fungi and parasites can contaminate food. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, stomach pain, head ache, fever and chillness are common signs of bacterial food poisoning. Staphylococcus aureus is a normal inhabitant of the skin. It multiplies in cooked food that is prepared in unhygienic ways or food in food that is stored improperly. The toxin produced by the bacteria causes discomfort like vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea within 6-8 hrs of consumption of contaminated food. Salmonella is a common contaminant of raw meat (including chicken), raw or undercooked eggs, and unpasteurized milk.Salmonella is killed when food is cooked properly. The symptoms associated with contamination starts after 16-24 hrs of consuming food. E.coli infections are common from undercooked meat. The bacteria cause severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Clostridium perfringensis a common contaminant of cooked beef, poultry, gravy, fish, casseroles, stews, and bean burritos. The discomfort associated with the bacteria start nine to twenty-four hours after eating, and last from one to several days.Clostridium is a common inhabitant of soil, sewage, in human and animal intestinal content.Shigella infections spreads through contaminated food, water and poor hygiene. This infection causes diarrhea, fever, and cramps.Camphylobacterpoisoning occurs on consuming contaminated raw or undercooked chicken, drinking unpasteurized milk or contaminated water. Watery diarrhea is a common sign in these diseases. Cramps and fever can last from two to five days. Clostridium botulinum causes a rare and deadly food poisoning. The bacteria grows in anaerobic conditions and this explains why poisoning by this bacteria is common with intake of canned food. Canned low-acid vegetables, such as green beans, corn, beets, and peas are highly prone to botulinum contamination. Honey is also frequently contaminated with Clostridium botulinum. Children under one year of age are highly susceptible to the toxin produced by this organism. It is better to avoid giving honey, to children less than one year of age. Botulinum attacks the nervous system causing drooping eyelids, double vision, muscle paralysis, difficulty in breathing and swallowing. The onset of symptoms may take 16-32 hrs. It can result in death if not treated. It may be difficult to reverse nerve damage that happens in these diseases. Cryptosporidiosis is an important food borne infection among immunocompromised individuals consuming contaminated food. ( 2015)
Viruses are the smallest organism capable of causing food contamination. Unlike bacteria, it does not grow in food. Food acts as fomites for spread of viral infection. The best way to prevent viral contamination in food is by prevent them from reaching the food. Parasite also doesn’t grow in food. The parasites and their eggs are usually excreted in feces. Water contaminated by sewage or fecal matter when used to prepare food can cause parasitic contamination. Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Cyclospora, Toxoplasma, Trichinella, Ansakis, Diphyllobothrium, andTaeniacauses most of the food borne parasitic infections in U.S. (Landau 2010)
Fungi can grow in food that has low moisture content. Cheese, cured meat, breads, cakes, preserved fruits are prone to fungal growth. Likewise incorrectly stored cereals, grains, nuts, coffee, cocoa can become infected with fungi. Toxic fungal metabolites are capable of causing headache, fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, tremors and convulsion. In certain cases it causes death. Mycotoxin can cause cancer and genetic defects in fetus. Over 200 kinds of mycotoxin have being identified in nature. The mycotoxins of major health significance are:Aflatoxin B1, B2, G1, G2; T-2 toxin, Deoxynnivalenol, Zearalenone, Fumonisin B1, Ochratoxin A, Patulin. Aflatoxin causes hepatotoxicity and cancer. Ochratoxin is a renal toxin, carcinogen and teratogen. (Landau 2010)
Prevention of food contamination: Cleanliness is important in preventing food contamination and spoilage. Food contamination is common when food is prepared in unhygienic conditions ( 2015). Washing the hand with soap and water before preparing and eating food is a good preventive measure (Department of Health 2015). Food should not be prepared or processed by sick people. Canned foods should be carefully examined for signs of bacterial contamination. Spoilt food should not be consumed. Avoid drinking raw milk and eating raw meat. Cooked and prepared food should not be left in room temperature for more than 2 hrs (Department of Health 2015). Food should be stored in a refrigerator at less than 40C. Food that is cooked thoroughly can kill most of the biological organism and toxin. It is good to buy food from a safe and approved source ( 2015). Safe water should be used for cooking and cleaning purposes. Innovative technologies may be required to reduce chemical and physical contamination in food. Taking utmost care during each stage of food preparation can prevent contamination.

References to in text citations:, 2015, CDC - CDC and Food Safety - Food Safety, viewed 20 April 2015, <>.,2015, Food poisioning/NSW Food Authority,viewed22 April 2015, <>, 2015, Food Contamination and Foodborne Illness Prevention - Food Safety - Minnesota Dept. of Health, viewed 20 April 2015, <>., 2015, Food Contamination and Foodborne Illness Prevention - Food Safety - Minnesota Dept. of Health, viewed 20 April 2015, <>., 2015, Food Poisoning and Food Contamination, viewed 20 April 2015, <>.
Hemminger, J 2000, Food safety, Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.
Landau, E 2010, Food poisoning and foodborne diseases, Twenty-First Century Books, Minneapolis.
Schrenk, D 2012, Chemical contaminants and residues in food, Woodhead Publishing, Oxford.
Worsley, A & Scott, V 2000, ‘Consumer ‘ concerns about food and health in Australia and New Zealand”, Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, vol9, no.1, pp.24-32.

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