Démystifions les intoxications alimentaires

Definition of food poisoning

Food poisoning occurs after consuming water or food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, etc. Usually, food poisoning is harmless and only lasts a few days. However, they can have more serious consequences for some more vulnerable people. This is particularly the case of infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people whoseimmune system is weakened (e.g. cancer, AIDS, etc.).

Symptoms of food poisoning

The main symptoms of food poisoning include abdominal pain, cramps,diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever and headache. Symptoms can occur a few hours after consuming the contaminated food to several days after consuming it.

Causes of food poisoning

As mentioned earlier, food poisoning is caused by consuming contaminated food or water. Contamination can occur at all levels of the food chain from farm to fork. Common causes of contamination include:

  • Insufficient cooking or improper cooling of food.
  • Contact between food and unwashed surfaces, utensils or hands.
  • Contact between cooked food and raw food.
  • Contact between cooked food and utensils, surfaces or hands that have touched raw food. This is called cross contamination.

There are several infectious agents that can cause food poisoning. The following five bacteria are among the most common causes:

  • Escherichia coli: Common sources of this bacteria include raw or undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables, unpasteurized apple juice and milk, and untreated water.
  • Salmonella: This bacteria is found in raw or inadequately cooked poultry, meat, fish and eggs, raw fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Listeria: Common sources of this bacteria are processed, non-dried meats, unpasteurized dairy products, raw vegetables, and raw or undercooked meat, poultry and fish.
  • Clostridium botulinum: This bacterium is mainly found in improperly prepared cans and honey.
  • Campylobacter jejuni: This bacterium is particularly present in raw poultry, unpasteurized milk and untreated water.

Prevent food poisoning

Food can be contaminated before, during and after preparation. Here are some tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning:

  • Wash your hands with hot water and soap regularly (e.g. before cooking, after handling raw food, etc.)
  • Choose pasteurized products (eg dairy products and apple juice).
  • Do not use broken or cracked eggs.
  • Do not use bulging, damaged, punctured, or leaking cans.
  • Defrost food properly. The safest way to defrost food is to refrigerate it ahead of time.
  • Separate raw foods from cooked foods.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables well under running water before cutting and eating them.
  • If possible use a different board for vegetables and raw meats or wash the board between each use.
  • Clean kitchen implements, utensils, work surfaces and counters before and after cooking and when they have been in contact with raw meat.
  • Cook foods well, especially meat, poultry, fish and eggs. A cooking thermometer can be useful for checking the internal temperature of cooked foods.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers quickly. Leftovers should not be left for more than two hours at room temperature. Ideally, store them in the refrigerator in a container with the lid open if they are hot, then close the lid before transferring them to the freezer once they have cooled if they will not be consumed in the freezer. next three days.
  • Observe food preservation and storage temperatures. The Thermoguide from the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) is a useful tool to find out the storage times for food in the refrigerator or freezer:https://www.mapaq.gouv.qc.ca/fr/Publications/Thermoguide.pdf.
  • Change and wash kitchen towels regularly.
  • Do not offer honey to children under one year of age.
  • Regularly clean reusable grocery bags and lunch boxes.


Article written by:

Marie-Noël Marsan, Nutritionist


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