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Food Poisoning

What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is any illness caused by eating contaminated food.

Malaysia reported 14,455 cases of food poisoning in year 2007 (Incidence rate of 53.19/100,000 population).

What are the causes of food poisoning?

Causes of food poisoning

  • Bacteria or their poison (toxin) and viruses
  • Chemicals such as insecticides, weed killers and drugs.
  • Metals such as lead, copper, mercury
  • Poisonous plants and marine products such as mushroom, fungus and shellfish.

What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?

The symptoms of food poisoning depend on :

  • The causative agents causing the illness
  • Amount (dose) of bacteria, viruses or poison ingested
  • Age of individuals
  • Immune system (body strength) of individuals.

The persons may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomitting
  • Stomachache
  • Sweating/Fever
  • Headache
  • Lethargy.

What are the complications of food poisoning?

It may also leads to permanent health problem and disability such as paralysis, renal impairment or chronic joints pai.

Food poisoning can cause death if not treated early.

What are the reasons for occurrence of food poisoning?

Common reasons for food poisoning to occur :

  • Food is left at room temperature for a long period of time (more than 4 hours)
  • Food is not adequately cooked
  • Food is not properly stored (storing raw and cooked food together)
  • Food is not adequately reheated
  • Frozen meat and poultry not adequately thawed before cooking
  • Poor hygiene practices of food handlers
  • Food prepared by ill persons or carriers of food borne diseases.

How to avoid food poisoning?

Ways to avoid food poisoning :

  • Always keep clean
    • Wash hands properly before handling food
    • Wash hands after going to toilet
    • Wash and sanitize surfaces and equipment used to prepare food
    • Keep kitchen areas free from insects, pests and other animals.
  • Always separate raw and cooked food
    • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from cooked food
    • Use separate utensils such as knives and chopping boards for handlings raw foods
    • Store foods in containers to avoid contact/cross contamination between raw and prepared foods.
  • Always cook thoroughly
    • Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.
  • Always keep food at safe temperature
    • Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 4 hours
    • Refrigerate/chill promptly all cooked and perishable food.
  • Always use safe water and raw materials
    • Drink only boiled or bottled water
    • Select fresh and wholesome foods
    • Wash fruits and vegetables properly especially if eaten raw (ulam, salads)
    • Do not use food beyond its expiry date.
  • Always choose clean food premise when eating out
    • Avoid dirty and unhygienic street vendor.

What should I do if I have food poisoning

  • Immediately go to clinics or hospitals to seek treatment.
  • Follow the doctor advices.
  • Keep aside suspected leftover food for further investigation by authorised officer. Do not throw it away.
  • Strictly ensures others do not eat the suspected food
  • Immediately notify the nearest health office.


Last reviewed : 19 April 2012
Writer : Dr. A’aisah bt. Senin
Norrani bt. Eksan
Reviewer : Badruzzaman bin Abdul Rahim