Can food poisoning have long-term complications?
BY: Susan Male-Smith
Definitely, says Patricia Buck, executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI) in Grove City, Pa., and co-author of a recent groundbreaking report on long-term complications following food poisoning. More than 200 pathogens can cause food poisoning, the most common culprits being Campylobacter and Salmonella. While most people are familiar with the acute symptoms -- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea -- not everyone realizes that serious, long-term complications can follow, including kidney failure, seizures, meningitis, paralysis, blindness, diabetes, cardiac infections, gallstones, pneumonia, arthritis, miscarriage, retardation and visual impairment. But here’s the shocker: You can ingest a pathogen without suffering acute food poisoning and still encounter long-term complications weeks, months or possibly even years later.
Still, “the sicker you are during the acute stage, the more likely the long-term health consequences,” says Buck. To avoid food poisoning in the summer months ahead:
- Keep hot food hot and cold food cold -- no more than two hours at room temperature, one hour in the sun.
- Wash hands before and after preparing food.
- Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards for meats and produce and separate plates for raw and cooked meats.
- Wash and/or scrub produce, including foods like cantaloupe, so that any organisms on the outside aren’t transferred to the inside when you cut into it.
Susan Male-Smith is a registered dietitian and freelance nutrition and health writer. She has written for Family Circle, Redbook, Child and American Health, and she is a former editor of the Environmental Nutrition newsletter and co-author of Foods for Better Health. Susan is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.