Man passes away following consumption of shawarma from a roadside vendor; Measures to safeguard against foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness

A child passed away following food poisoning from a chicken shawarma bought from a street vendor in Mumbai

A 19-year-old male passed away after consuming chicken shawarma purchased from a roadside stall in Mumbai, authorities confirmed. Following severe stomach pain and vomiting, Prathamesh Bhokse sought medical attention at a nearby hospital.

Nevertheless, as per Bhokse’s relatives, his suffering persisted, and he remained unwell. Subsequently, he was transferred to a different hospital and received treatment for food poisoning. Despite this, his condition deteriorated, prompting another urgent trip for medical care due to ongoing vomiting and abdominal discomfort. Eventually, he was admitted to a government-operated hospital in Trombay, where he ultimately passed away.

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning occurs when someone consumes food or drinks that have been contaminated, resulting in illness. Contamination can occur due to harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins in the food. When ingested, these contaminants can lead to various symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and, in severe cases, dehydration and organ damage. The severity and duration of symptoms depend on factors such as the type and amount of contaminant ingested and individual health factors. Proper food handling, storage, cooking, and hygiene practices are crucial for preventing food poisoning.

Occasionally, food poisoning can pose a serious risk, mainly due to severe dehydration. Globally, unsafe food leads to 600 million instances of foodborne illnesses and results in 420,000 fatalities annually—children under the age of five account for over 30 percent of these deaths.

Who is Most at Risk From Food Poisoning?

Doctors suggest that individuals with weaker immune systems are at a higher risk of experiencing food poisoning or suffering more severe symptoms. Several factors can influence the strength of your immune system.

1. Children under five: Their immune systems are still developing, making them more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.

2. Elderly individuals: As people age, their immune systems weaken, increasing their vulnerability to foodborne pathogens.

3. Pregnant women: Changes in their immune system during pregnancy can make them more susceptible to certain foodborne illnesses, which can also affect the unborn baby’s health.

4. People with weakened immune systems: Those with conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, or undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplant are more prone to severe cases of food poisoning because their bodies may not be able to fight off infections effectively.

5. Individuals with chronic illnesses: Conditions like liver or kidney disease can impair the body’s ability to process and eliminate toxins, making them more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.

Signs and Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Signs and symptoms of food poisoning include:

1. Nausea

2. Vomiting

3. Diarrhea

4. Abdominal pain or cramps

5. Fever

6. Headache

7. Muscle aches

8. Weakness

9. Fatigue

10. Dehydration (manifested by decreased urine output, dry mouth, and thirst)

Ways to Protect Yourself from Food Poisoning

To protect yourself from food poisoning, follow these precautions:

1. Wash your hands: Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before handling food, using the bathroom, and touching pets.

2. Keep surfaces clean: Clean and sanitize countertops, cutting boards, utensils, and other kitchen surfaces regularly, especially after preparing raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

3. Cook food thoroughly: Cook meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to ensure proper cooking temperatures are reached.

4. Separate raw and cooked foods: To prevent cross-contamination, keep raw meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods.

5. Refrigerate promptly: Refrigerate perishable foods, leftovers, and prepared foods within two hours (or one hour if the temperature is above 90°F or 32°C).

How Do You Treat Food Poisoning?

Treatment for food poisoning typically involves staying hydrated, getting rest, avoiding certain foods, and possibly taking medications to manage symptoms. In severe cases, medical attention may be necessary for antibiotics or intravenous fluids.

How Long does Food Poisoning Last? 

The duration of food poisoning can vary depending on factors such as the type of contaminant, the amount consumed, and individual health factors. Usually, signs of food poisoning persist for a span ranging from a few hours to several days. However, severe cases or infections caused by certain bacteria or toxins may lead to symptoms persisting for a week or longer. Staying hydrated, resting, and seeking medical attention if symptoms are severe or prolonged is essential.