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Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is an acute gastro-intestinal disease caused by consumption of food or drink contaminated by bacteria, viruses or chemicals. They include those without proper storage, expired or spoiled food and food with natural toxins.

Sign and Symptom

  • The severity of symptoms depends on the type and amount of contaminated food taken.
  • Usual symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain, vomiting, dizziness and fever. They may occur from one to thirty-six hours after intake of contaminated food.
  • People affected by ciguatoxin may present with face and upper limbs numbness, reversal of heat and cold sensation, joint pain and muscle ache. Severe cases may experience breathing difficulty, blurring of vision, dehydration, cramps, confusion, coma and even death may occur.

Management of people suffering from food poisoning

  • Seek medical advice as early as possible, as food poisoning may cause dehydration.
  • Take in fluid to prevent dehydration either by adding some salt into the water or by taking sports drink to replace electrolytes.
  • Do not take any antidiarrheals or antiemetics without doctor's advice. These drugs only suppress the symptoms temporarily but do not cure the illness.

Preventive measures

Please maintain food, personal and environmental hygiene in the prevention of food poisoning.

Food hygiene

A. Purchase of food

  • Avoid stocking up large amounts of food.
  • Check expiry dates of pre-packaged foods, e.g. “use by” date and "best before” date. Do not buy expired food or those with damaged package.
  • Do not purchase food with abnormal appearance such as rusty canned foods , any change of color or foul smell.
  • Do not buy any food that is not covered properly e.g. barbecued meat hanging outside the shops. Avoid buying non-prepacked drinks and fruits that have already been cut or peeled.
  • Purchase food from a hygienic, reliable and reputable source to ensure quality. Never patronize unlicensed hawkers.

B. Cooking of food

  • Store raw and cooked foods separately in the refrigerator (cooked food in the upper compartment and raw food in the lower compartment) to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Frozen food must be completely defrosted before cooking and should be cooked thoroughly. Defrost the frozen food either by placing it in the lower compartment of refrigerator or throwing it under running water. Do not place the frozen food in room temperature to avoid rapid growth of bacteria.
  • Eat cooked food as soon as possible after cooking. Leftovers should be kept in the refrigerator at 4°C or below or hot container at 60°C or above.

C. Storage of food

  • Use different sets of knives and chopping boards for raw and cooked food to avoid cross-contamination. If only one set of knife and chopping board is available, use it for cooked food first. Brush and wash the used utensils with detergent immediately after use.
  • Eat food that is thoroughly cooked.
  • Reheat food thoroughly before consumption.

Personal hygiene

  • Always keep the hands clean. Wash hands with soap and water and dry them thoroughly especially before preparing food, before meals, after going to toilet or after handling rubbish.
  • Wear a clean apron when preparing food.
  • Use clean spoons or chopsticks for tasting. Do not touch with bare hands to avoid transmission of germ.
  • Cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.
  • Do not smoke or spit while handling food.
  • Cover wounds with water-proof dressings and change it regularly to prevent contamination of food by the bacteria from the wound.
  • Do not handle the food in case of illness such as diarrhoea and vomiting but to seek medical advice at once.

Environmental hygiene

  • Maintain good lighting and ventilation in the kitchen. Keep the floor, ceiling and walls clean and dry.
  • Ensure good maintenance of refrigerator, kitchen range hood, exhaust fans and cooking utensils.
  • Ensure free passage of drains.
  • Maintain pest control to eliminate mice, houseflies and cockroaches. Do not keep pets in the kitchen.
  • Dispose refuse and food waste into garbage bin with lid on at all times and empty the contents at least once a day.
  • Clean food containers immediately after use and store them in a dust and pest-free cupboard after drying.