How is food poisoning prevented?

Updated: Jun 19, 2018
  • Author: Roberto M Gamarra, MD; Chief Editor: Praveen K Roy, MD, AGAF  more...
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No vaccine is available that can prevent norovirus infection. An early study conducted in a controlled setting assessed the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of an investigational, intranasally delivered norovirus viruslike particle (VLP) vaccine to prevent acute viral gastroenteritis. Results suggest the vaccine protects against illness and infection after exposure to the Norwalk virus and could potentially prevent infection in susceptible, high-risk populations. The vaccine has not been tested in the natural setting, however. [16]

The best way to prevent food poisoning caused by infectious agents is to practice strict personal hygiene, cook all foods adequately, avoid cross-contamination of raw and cooked foods, and keep all foods at appropriate temperatures (ie, < 40°F for refrigerated items and >140°F for hot items).

Avoiding eating wild mushrooms prevents mushroom poisoning.

Prevention of fish poisoning requires avoidance of large tropical fish (ciguatera poisoning) and compliance with seasonal or emergency quarantines of shellfish harvesting areas (shellfish poisoning).

Raw or undercooked milk, poultry, eggs, meat, and seafood are best avoided.

Local health authorities should be notified if an outbreak of food poisoning occurs. This leads to appropriate actions to prevent further spread of food poisoning.

Irradiation of food (ie, the use of ionizing radiation or ionizing energy to treat foods, either packaged or in bulk form) can eliminate food-borne pathogens. Annually, more than half a million tons of food is now irradiated worldwide. Treating raw meat and poultry with irradiation at the slaughter plant could eliminate bacteria, such as E coli O157:H7 and Salmonella and Campylobacter organisms. No evidence of adverse health effects has been found in the well-controlled clinical trials involving irradiated food.

The use of low-temperature gas plasmas in the food industry may potentially reduce the incidence of foodborne disease. [17] The gas plasmas have microbiocidal capabilities and may also aid in degrading undesirable chemical compounds that can be found on food and food-processing equipment (eg, pesticide residues, toxins, allergens). [17]

Prophylaxis for traveler's diarrhea is not recommended routinely because of the risk of adverse effects from the drugs (eg, rash, anaphylaxis, vaginal candidiasis) and the development of resistant gut flora. Possible regimens for prophylaxis include bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, 524 mg PO qid with meals and qhs), doxycycline (100 mg PO qd; resistance documented in many areas of the world), TMP/SMX (160 mg/800 mg 1 double-strength tab qd), or norfloxacin (400 mg PO qd; fluoroquinolones should not be prescribed to children or pregnant women). No significant resistance to the fluoroquinolones has been reported in high-risk areas, and they are the most effective antibiotics in regions where susceptibilities are not known.

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