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Food borne diseases are diseases caused by the ingestion of food borne pathogens. They are generally regarded as gastrointestinal infections that occur when microbes are ingested via contaminated foods or food products. In cases of food borne diseases, the ingested food borne pathogen grows within the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) or gut of the affected individual; and this microbial growth result in some clinical conditions or symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal cramp and profuse stooling that infer possible cases of food borne illnesses. Food borne diseases also encompass food intoxifications and food poisoning, but there are some variations that exist between these health anomalies (i.e. food intoxifications, food poisoning and food borne diseases) that occur in humans following the consumption of food and food products that are heavily contaminated by pathogenic microorganisms. Table 1 shows the list of some pathogenic microorganisms that are mainly implicated in most cases of food borne diseases.

Table 1. Summary of microorganisms that cause food-borne infections in man

Food borne diseases usually result from the consumption of foods or water that contains viable or living pathogenic microorganisms that invade the host’s GIT to cause gastroenteritis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe and microbial-contaminated food and food products portend great health and economic consequences. Aside the morbidity and mortality associated with the consumption of food and food products contaminated by pathogenic microorganisms, a lot of resources are expended globally to contain the health consequences of food borne illnesses including cholera, botulism, salmonellosis, staphylococcal poisoning and other gastroenteritis caused by food borne agents. Food borne outbreaks has been reported in recent times in most parts of the world inclusive of sub Saharan Africa; and the trend is on the increase owing to the inadequacies associated with food handling and processing in some quarters.

To ensure food safety and good quality of processed foods, it is critical to take food hygiene and monitoring of food products for possible contamination by food borne pathogens seriously. Most of the environments where food is being processed are unhygienic, and the equipment and personnel involved in food processing do not imbibe strict hygienic procedures that are capable of minimizing microbial contamination of these foods. Salmonellosis (caused by Salmonella species), traveler’s diarrhea (caused by pathogenic strains of E. coli), botulism (caused by Clostridium botulinum), cholera (caused by V. cholerae), shigellosis (caused by Shigella species), staphylococcal food poisoning (caused by pathogenic strains of S. aureus) and listeriosis (caused by L. monocytogenes) are typical examples of food borne illnesses.    

Further reading

Bushell M.E (1998). Application   of   the   principles   of   industrial   microbiology   to   biotechnology (ed. Wiseman, A.) Chapman and Hall, New York.

Byong H. Lee (2015). Fundamentals of Food Biotechnology. Second edition. Wiley-Blackwell, New Jersey, United States.

Frazier W.C, Westhoff D.C and Vanitha N.M (2014). Food Microbiology. Fifth edition. McGraw-Hill Education (India) Private Limited, New Delhi, India.

Jay J.M (2005). Modern Food Microbiology. Fourth edition. Chapman and Hall Inc, New York, USA.

Bushell M.E (1998). Application   of   the   principles   of   industrial   microbiology   to   biotechnology (ed. Wiseman, A.) Chapman and Hall, New York.

Farida A.A (2012). Dairy Microbiology. First edition. Random Publications. New Delhi, India.

Nduka Okafor (2007). Modern industrial microbiology and biotechnology. First edition. Science Publishers, New Hampshire, USA.

Roberts D and Greenwood M (2003). Practical Food Microbiology. Third edition. Blackwell publishing Inc, USA.

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