The heat wave increases the risk of food poisoning

A waitress serves dishes in a restaurant. / Photolia

Experts warn that symptoms are usually mild, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain.

High temperatures accelerate the proliferation of microorganisms in food and increase the risk of food poisoning. According to Giuseppe Russolillo, president of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, bacteria multiply from 25°C, but the greatest growth occurs when the food reaches 35°C. “If the ambient temperature is high, a served dish will last less time without being contaminated and may not be suitable for human consumption,” he explains.

About 60% of annual food poisonings occur in summer, reveals Russolillo. Having meals outdoors or in the hotel industry, relaxing hygiene measures, preparing in unsuitable or hot areas or lengthening after meals are some of the activities that contribute to gastroenteritis. To this is added that record temperatures have been registered, which not only affect the kitchens of the restoration, but also heat those of the homes. “These diseases can be generated at home, not just in restaurants or bars. However, we do not associate the discomfort it causes with this risk factor, unless it affects all members of the family, “says Russolillo.

Products that are raw and must remain cold are the most prone to the spread of bacteria or toxins. The heat wave makes it difficult to maintain the cold chain. It is easy to break because food is left at room temperature when it should be below 7°C. “It is important to preserve the freshness of the food because once it is contaminated, even if it is refrigerated again, it is no longer safe,” says Paula Rodríguez, spokesperson for the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN).

Symptoms can be mild: diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain, although they can sometimes be acute and require medical intervention. “There are bacteria in all foods, but the seriousness of a disease is in the type and quantity of microorganisms present,” explains psychonutritionist Sarai Alonso, who insists on paying attention to the texture, color or smell before consuming food. Poisonings also depend on the sensitivity of each individual’s body and immune system, she says.

In the fridge

The most refreshing and preferred foods in this season, such as salads, creams or cut or peeled fruits, should be kept in the refrigerator and prepared in fresh conditions. The biggest mistakes happen in the kitchen, rather than the dining room, Russolillo says. Although some inappropriate behavior persists –such as not separating raw from cooked products or not properly cleaning work surfaces and utensils–, in recent years there has been awareness of the importance of preventing product contamination.

Despite the fact that there are no scientific studies that confirm that a contaminated food loses its nutrients, confirms Russolillo, these would not be absorbed by the human body either, which would generate a reaction to attack the bacteria, by evacuating the food.


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