Food Handler and Food Safety Certification in Canada

The most common foodborne pathogens are bacteria, but viruses, parasites and chemicals are also known to cause a variety of foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illnesses are irritations or infections of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract caused by consuming contaminated food or beverages. The GI tract begins from the mouth and makes its way to the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus. Thus, signs and symptoms of infection are mostly in relation to this body system, which include, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever and chills. Fortunately, most foodborne illnesses are short-term and occur suddenly, and can be treated at home. This article will discuss the most common foodborne pathogens, or any agent that can produce diseases.

Most Common Food Pathogen: Bacteria

The most common food pathogen is bacteria. Bacteria can contaminate food from poor handling and storage, improper cooking and many other different ways. Although it is recognized that not all bacteria will cause harm to humans, the following are known species of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses:

  • Salmonella – undercooked meat, poultry, dairy products, seafood, on or inside eggs
  • Campylobacter jejuni – undercooked chicken and unpasteurized milk
  • Shigella – infected food or water from a contaminated person
  • Escherichia coli – raw or undercooked hamburger, unpasteurized fruits juices and milk, and fresh produce
  • Listeria monocytogenes – raw and undercooked meats, unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, and ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs
  • Vibrio – contaminated fish or shellfish
  • Clostridium botulinum – improperly canned foods and smoked and salted fish

Most Common Food Pathogen: Viruses

Food Safety Training

Food Safety Training

Viruses are tiny nonliving capsules that contain genetic material. Viruses need a host to survive, hence transmission is from person to person. The common sources of foodborne viruses include food prepared by an infected with a virus, shellfish from contaminated water and produce irrigated with contaminated water. Common foodborne viruses will include:

  • Norovirus
  • Hepatitis A

Most Common Food Pathogen: Parasites

Parasites are small organisms that live inside another organism. The following are the most common parasitic food pathogens:

  • Cryptosporidium parvum – contaminated water
  • Giardia intestinalis – contaminated water
  • Trichinella spiralis – raw or undercooked pork

Most Common Food Pathogen: Chemicals

Tiny organisms aren’t the only common food pathogens. There are also harmful chemicals that may contaminate foods that can lead to foodborne illnesses, which can include:

  • Toxin produced by algae eaten by certain marine life animals – contaminated fish or shellfish
  • Certain types of wild mushrooms
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables with high concentrations of pesticides

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice and should not be substituted for formal training. The information given should not be used for self-diagnosis. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is important to recognise potential medical emergencies at all times to avoid complications from developing. To learn more about food safety, the most common foodborne pathogens and how to manage foodborne illnesses, enrol in First Aid Courses and CPR Courses with Red Cross Training.

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