Food Poisoning - Introduction, Symptoms & Food Preservation

Food is an integral part of existence for living organisms. It is food from where we derive the energy to do everyday work. It helps build our immunity system to be fit to fight against diseases. This is the reason why it becomes all the more necessary to eat the right food at the right time. Sometimes, microorganisms grow on the food which we consume. Food gets contaminated when pathogens multiply and release toxic substances, resulting in food poisoning.

Symptoms Of Food Poisoning

Following are a few of the symptoms to help you check if you are diagnosed with food poisoning

  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Irritable abdominal cramps
  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite

After understanding about food poisoning and it’s symptoms, let us have a look at how to preserve food from getting contaminated.

Food Preservation

We can preserve food by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms on food and slowing oxidation of fats. Storing and preserving of whole food grains and cooked food is different. Microbes act on cooked food since it needs moisture to breed and whole food usually is dried of moisture. This is the reason why bread left unused under moist conditions sees the action of microbes on it. One of the characteristics of contaminated food apart from visible changes is that it emits a foul smell and tastes different than usual. Eating such food should strictly be avoided.

Listed below are a few of the methods using which food can be preserved.

Chemical Method

Preservatives are used to check microbial activity in this method of preservation of food. Acid preservatives are also added to prevent food from spoilage in pickles, squashes, jams, canned food, etc. Some common preservatives:

  • Salt
  • Edible Oils
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Sodium metabisulphite

Preservation by common salt

Salt removes water from any food material as it is water absorbent. In absence of water, microbes do not multiply. Hence salt is added to fish and meat to extract moisture content so that microbial activity is inhibited. It is also added to tamarind, raw mangoes etc. A salt solution called brine is used in the process of pickling.

Preservation by sugar

Sugar, like salt, absorbs moisture from food, making it too dry for microbes to exist. In food items like jams and jellies, sugar is added as a preservative. The process of desiccating food by dehydrating it first and then packing it with pure sugar is known as sugaring. Sugaring is used to preserve food, some fruits are preserved this way. In some cases, meat and fish too are preserved using the sugaring process.

Preservation by Oil and Vinegar

One of the most commonly used methods to preserve food is the use of edible oil. Oil and vinegar checks on spoilage in pickles. Fruits and vegetables are also oiled to preserve them from getting rotten. Vinegar has properties to stop and slow down spoilage of food over a long period of time, it does so because acidity level or pH of vinegar does not allow any microbial activity to occur.

Heat and Cold Treatments

Boiling milk and food before storing them is one of the methods of food preservation. Pasteurization is the process of heating packaged and unpackaged foods to about 70 degrees Celsius for 15-30 seconds and stored after suddenly chilling. This way, milk can be consumed without boiling as it is free from microbes. We preserve meat and other food items under cold temperatures in the freezer to prevent attack by microbes.

Storage and Packing

Fruits, vegetables, and cooked food are stored in airtight containers, aluminium foils, cans, paper bags, and Ziploc bags to prevent them from getting contaminated.

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