Hamad Medical Corporation Provides Tips for Preventing Food Poisoning and Foodborne Illness

Press release
Published July 10th, 2018 - 10:16 GMT
Dr. Farouq Al Rawi, Emergency Medicine Consultant, Al Wakra Hospital
Dr. Farouq Al Rawi, Emergency Medicine Consultant, Al Wakra Hospital

With upwards of 680 patients treated at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Al Wakra Hospital Emergency Department in May and June for symptoms related to foodborne illnesses, Dr. Farouq Al Rawi, Emergency Medicine Consultant, says cases of food poisoning tend to spike during the summer months.

“Food poisoning is a sudden illness with symptoms occurring a short time after eating or drinking something contaminated, spoiled, or toxic. Common symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, usually occur within 72-hours. Around five percent of the 37,000 patients we cared for at the Al Wakra Emergency Department during May and June were treated for food poisoning or gastroenteritis,” said Dr. Al Rawi.

While food poisoning can be very uncomfortable, Dr. Al Rawi says it is usually not a serious medical condition and can be treated with over-the-counter medication, hydration, and rest. Most cases will resolve within three to five days, but Dr. Al Rawi says severe food poisoning may require hospitalization and hydration with intravenous (IV) fluids.

“Staying hydrated, eating a bland, low-fat diet, and getting plenty of rest is the recommended treatment for food poisoning. While over-the-counter medications can help control diarrhea and suppress nausea, we don’t recommend using these medications. The body uses vomiting and diarrhea to rid the system of toxins and these medications could mask the severity of an illness. Severe cases of food poisoning may require hospital observation and hydration with IV fluids to replace lost salt and minerals,” said Dr. Al Rawi.

He added that incidents of foodborne illnesses spike during the summer barbecue season, underscoring the need to be careful about storing, preparing, and serving foods. Dr. Al Rawi recommends cleaning BBQs before each use and washing the grill with hot water and soap. He says raw food should be kept refrigerated at all times, never coming into contact with cooked food.

“Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be securely wrapped and stored at the bottom of a cooler or refrigerator so their juices won’t contaminate already prepared foods or raw produce. When using a BBQ, foods should be cooked thoroughly and served immediately after cooking, or cooled quickly,” said Dr. Al Rawi. 

He added that it is important to ensure a BBQ is used in a well-ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. He also recommends using leaner cuts of meat, and cutting meat into small pieces to reduce cooking time and limit exposure to both the BBQ’s heat and the potentially dangerous smoke and chemicals.

Ms. Hadeel Abou-Nada, Clinical Dietician at Hamad General Hospital, said while anyone can get food poisoning, young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems, such as those with diabetes, AIDS, or cancer, are most at risk of becoming severely ill as a result of contracting a food-borne illness.

“The best way to prevent food poisoning is to handle your food carefully and to avoid eating any foods that may have been improperly prepared. Always wash your hands before cooking or eating and make sure that your food is properly sealed and stored. Anything that comes into contact with raw products, including countertops, cooking or eating utensils, linens, and your own hands, should be sanitized before prepare other foods. Always wash fruits and vegetables before serving. When eating canned food, ensure it has been properly canned and is not expired,” added Ms. Abou-Nada.

Foods eaten raw are a common source of food poisoning because they don’t go through the cooking process which kills most foodborne pathogens. Ms. Abou-Nada says educating ourselves and those who work in the food service industry is an essential part of preventing food poisoning. She says food temperate can be a major cause of food-borne illness, with foods that are not refrigerated properly, not kept hot enough, or left at room temperature for too long, being among the most common causes of food poisoning.

“Food handlers can contaminate food if they are ill, if they don’t wash their hands sufficiently after using the bathroom, or if they have a cut or sore on their hands. Cross-contamination of food can happen if the same knives and cutting board is used for raw meat, poultry, or fish and uncooked fruits or vegetables,” said Ms. Abou-Nada.

She adds that packed lunches can be a major cause of food poisoning in children, noting that parents who pack their child’s lunch should take special care to ensure the lunchbox is properly cleaned.  She also recommends choosing foods wisely, avoiding those that pose the highest contamination risk, such as lunch meats and mayonnaise, and instead selecting options that don’t have to stay hot or cold. She says insulated lunchboxes are also a good option if packing at-risk items.

Ms. Abou-Nada also encourages parents to teach children about the importance of good hand hygiene by washing their hands with soap and water before and after eating. She also says parents should encourage children not to share eating utensils and to drink from their own water bottles and cups.

Background Information

Hamad Medical Corporation

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is the main provider of secondary and tertiary healthcare in Qatar and one of the leading hospital providers in the Middle East.

For more than four decades, HMC has been dedicated to delivering the safest, most effective and compassionate care to all its patients.

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