Definition Of Foodborne Illness Biology Essay

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Food is any food or substance or material that is consumed to provide nutritional support for the body or for pleasure. It is usually of plant or animal origin and contains essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins or minerals. It is ingested and assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth and maintain life.

In ancient times, people obtained food from hunting and gathering, farming, ranching and fishing, known today as Agriculture. In modern times, most of the food energy consumed by the world population is supplied by the food industry operated by multinational corporations using intensive farming and industrial agricultural methods.

Foodborne illnesses usually arise from improper handling, preparation, or food storage. Good hygiene practices before, during and after food preparation can reduce the chances of contacting illness, There is a general understanding in the public health community that regular hand washing is one of the most effective defences against the spread of foodborne illness, The action of monitoring food to ensure that it will not cause foodborne illness is known as Food Safety. Foodborne disease can also be caused by a large variety of toxins that affect the environment.

Food safety is an increasingly important public health issue. Governments all over the world are intensifying their efforts to improve food safety. These efforts are in response to an increasing number of food safety problems and rising consumer concerns.

Food safety and food security are monitored by agencies such as the International Association for Food Protection, World Resource Institute, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organisation, and International Food Information Council.

DEFINITION OF FOODBORNE ILLNESS: Foodborne illnesses are defined as diseases, usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food. Every person is at risk of foodborne illness.

MAGNITUDE OF FOODBORNE ILLNESS: Foodborne diseases are widespread and growing public health problem, both in developed and developing countries.

The global incidence of foodborne disease is difficult to estimate, but it has been reported that in 2005 alone 1.8 million people died from diarrhoel diseases. A great proportion of these cases can be attributed to contamination of food and drinking water. Additionally, diarrhoea is a major cause of malnutrition in infants and young children

While less well documented, developing countries bear the brunt of the problem due to the presence of a wide range of foodborne diseases, including those caused by parasites . The high prevalence of diarrhoeal disease in many developing countries suggests major underlying food safety problems.


Salmonellosis is a major problem in most countries. Salmonellosis is caused by the Salmonella bacteria and symptoms are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Examples of food involved in outbreaks of salmonellosis are eggs, poultry and other meats, raw milk and chocolate.

Campylobacterosis is a widespread infection. It is caused by certain species of campylobacter bacteria and in some countries, the reported number of cases surpasses the incidence of salmonellosis. Foodborne cases are mainly caused by foods such as raw milk, raw or undercooked poultry and drinking water. Acute health effects of campylobacteriosis include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and diarrhoea. In 2-10% of cases the infection may lead to chronic health problems, including reactive arthritis and neurological disorders.


Naturally occurring toxins, such as mycotoxins, marin biotoxins, cynogenic glycosides and toxins occurring in poisonous mushrooms, periodically cause severe intoxications. Mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin and ochratoxin A, are found at measurable levels in many staple foods; the health implecations of long-term exposure of such toxins are poorly understood.

Unconventional agents such as the agent causing bovine spongiform encephalopathy(BSE, or “mad cow diseaseâ€Â), is associated with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob (Vcjd) Disease in humans. Consumption of bovine products containing brainbrain tissue is the most likely route for transmission of the agent to humans.

Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs) are compounds that accumulate in the environment and the human body. Known examples are Dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Dioxins are unwanted byproducts of some industrial processes and waste incineration. Exposure to POPs may result in a wide variety of adverse effects in humans.

Metals such as lead and mercury, cause neurological damage in infants and children. Exposure to cadmium can also cause kidney damage, usually seen in the elderly. These (and POPs) may contaminate food through pollution of air, water and soil.


Check for cleanliness: Buy food from a retailer who follows proper food handling practices. This helps assure that the food is safe.

Keep certain foods sepereated: Seperate raw meat, poultry, and seafoods foods ensuring that their juices do not drip on other food items.

Inspect cans and jars: Do not buy food in cans that are bulging or dented. This may mean that the food was under-processed and is contaminated. Always check the seals and ensure they are not broken.

Inspect frozen food packaging: Do not buy frozen food if the package is damamged. Packages should not be open, torn, or crushed on the edges. Also avoid packages that are above the frost line in the stores freezer/ If the package cover is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. This could mean that the food has either been stored for a long time or has been thawed and refrozen

Select frozen foods and perishables last

Choose fresh eggs carefully

Be mindful of time and temperature: It is important to refrigerate perishable products as soon as possible after shopping. Use the two hour rule ie perishable foods should not be left at room temperature longer than 2hours because harmful bacteria can multiply after that time.



Consumers play an important role in the safety of food to reduce foodborne diseases

Studies have shown that a high rate of foodborne diseases are generated in the home


To determine how consumers handle food in the home

To determine the extent to which consumers are aware of safety measures in handling food

To ascertain why most safety measures are not followed by consumers


To analyse consumer food safety studies; similarities and differences between knowledge, attitudes, intentions, self reported practices and actual behaviours.

To identify areas where food safety practices are lacking and how to reverse the problem

To review the government’s role in reducing foodborne diseases


Over the years studies have shown that common illnesses resulting from foodborne diseases is as a result of lack of proper handling by consumers and this has become a growing problem in the world today. Internationally, foodborne diseases associated with microbial pathogens, biotoxins and chemical contaminants in food present a serious threat to the health of millions of individuals World health organisation. 2000. Food safety: resolutions of the executive board of WHO. Resolution EB105.R16 World health organisation, Geneva. World health organisation

A broad surveillance has been carried out by epidemiologists to determine the extent of foodborne diseases and food related illness in industrialised countries (50). Studies have been carried out and it has been estimated that 130 million Europeans (172), 2.1 million to 3.5 million great Britons from England and wales, 76 million Americans (112), and 4.7 million Australians(18) are affected by episodes of foodborne diseases and food related llnesses yearly. Although data cannot be compared directly because of the diverse surveillance systems put in place by various countries, it has been determined that Australia, the united kingdom and the united states appear to have similar incidences of foodborne diseases (39) and that individuals from these countries may also suffer from foodborne diseases at least once every 4 to 51/2 years (131).

It is rather difficult to determine frequency in occurrence of foodborne diseases as not alot of people report their cases when affected (103). This may be because not alot of them are fatal and can be associated with a number of other causes. There are also quite a number of fatal incidents (112) The majority (>95%) of cases of foodborne diseases are believed to be sporadic (63, 104) These cases as well as small outbreaks that originate in the home, generally involving of small number in homes are likely not reported and therefore cannot be identified by the health authorities(98, 176). Therefore, the actual proportion of foodborne outbreaks and individual cases originating in homes is most likely much larger than reported to be (179).

It has also been recorded that restaurants, cafeterias and bars are also sites for foodborne diseases although there is a higher incidence rate (three times more than that of restaurants and cafeterias) of foodborne disease in private homes(26). Over the past decade, up to 87% of reported foodborne diseases outbreaks in the united kingdom Europe Australia new Zealand the united states and Canada have been associated with food prepared or consumed in the home (see table 1 and figure 1). Salmonella which can be found in foods such as poultry eggs, unprocessed milk, meat and also water has been reported as the largest cause of foodborne diseases in the home (156). Sporadic cases or small outbreaks in homes account for the majority of food poisoning incidents recorded (176)

The importance of the home as a point of origin for foodborne diseases has urged surveys to evaluate aspects of bacterial contamination in domestic environments. The persistence of microorganisms , presence and density of pathogens, and the potential spread of microbial contaminants from contaminated food in the home has been reported (72). The risk of spreading infections in the home is highest in kitchen as Rusin et al. (142) found that the kitchen environment is more contaminated with fecal and total califorms than in the bathrooms. Microbial surveys of domestic kitchens have found that they are significantly contaminated with a variety of bacterial contaminants, including fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, and Salmonella(93). Pathogens such as Campylobacter and Salmonella have also been detected in both commercial and domestic kitchens after the food has been prepared (37, 45, 80, 138). Pathogenic and non pathogenic organisms are frequently brought into the home and hence the kitchen by the people living in them or those visiting, food consumed, water, pets, various insects and even through the air (25). Most often, the kitchen in homes is not used for cooking purposes only. Other departments of the home are integrated into the kitchen such as the laundry, storage area for detergents and the likes and also pets are left to roam free, making the transfer of these pathogenic and non pathogenic organisms (78). But if strategic hygiene practices are put in place and carried out this would reduce the risk of foods getting infected ((96).

For food to be considered as safe, all aspects of the food chain must be respected (72, 84, 171) i.e because all flesh is gotten from plants whether animals or plants, protective measures have to be put in place to prevent bacteria infestation in the plants as it may have adverse effects on the final consumer. The responsibility to ensure safety of food does not rest on only one stage (2).

All the information we need about domestic food handling practices come from two main sources: analyses of food poisoning outbreaks and research studies based on consumer feedback(78). All around the world, various consumer-based research studies have been carried out to determine the food safety practices of consumers. Different methods have been adapted including questionnaires and interview surveys. (journal). The accuracy and availability of data are limited because people rarely remember the exact food they consumed and the precise steps that were taken in handling the food before the illness was reported.


This study is going to be carried in the united kingdom (London). Past studies, both published and unpublished will be extensively reviewed. The web will also be explored and most importantly, questionnaires passed around customers coming in and out of grocery stores and individuals in the business of constantly handling food.