Illnesses

Please note: this page is under development and contains information that may change. It is also subject to correction, reformat and other modifications. Feel sick? Don’t ignore your body’s signals: contact your MD or, if you suspect something particularly serious, call an ambulance for transport to a hospital or other urgent care facility on an emergency basis.

This page outlines various illnesses relevant to recalled food or other issues covered on this site. Please read the important information regarding under what terms and conditions we offer this material at the bottom of each article and on the “About Recalls Direct” tab on this page.

 


Botulism:

About Botulism: Botulism is a rare but very serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve poison produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum (often shortened to “C. botulinum”). Foodborne Botulism is caused by eating foods that contain the Botulism toxin. People can also get Botulism as a result of Clostridium botulinum spores having entered an unclean wound, especially from deep, penetrating wounds. All forms of Botulism can cause paralysis and be fatal so emergency medical attention is absolutely necessary. Clostridium botulinum bacteria cannot grow in air, so Foodborne Botulism is usually seen only when certain foods are stored, handled, prepared or processed improperly. These typically include the following:

  • Improperly prepared low-acid, home-canned foods (such as asparagus, beets, green beans, mushrooms, peppers);
  • Improperly smoked fish as well as raw marine mammal meat (such as whale, walrus, seal);
  • Non-refrigerated storage of low-acid fruit juices (such as carrot juice);
  • Unpasteurized honey or corn syrup (this is the number one cause of Botulism in babies and infants and consequently these foods should never be given to this age group), and
  • Baked potatoes improperly stored in aluminum foil, especially those at room temperature (such as found in picnics or outside get-togethers).

Suspect Botulism? In adults, symptoms of Foodborne Botulism may include the following:

  • Abdominal cramps;
  • Breathing difficulties that can progress to complete respiratory failure;
  • Difficulty swallowing and speaking;
  • Double vision;
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness with paralysis (equal on both sides of the body)

Botulism symptoms in infants may include:

  • Gastrointestinal (“GI”) problems including poor feeding and constipation;
  • Poor mouth function such as drooling and weak sucking;
  • Respiratory distress and irregular breathing; and
  • Muscular weakness including lowered crying response and loss of muscle tone

Diagnosis: To diagnose Botulism, your MD will perform a physical exam looking for the following signs:

  • Absent or decreased gag reflex;
  • Drooping eyelids;
  • Lowered deep tendon reflexes;
  • Loss of muscle function, feeling and general weakness;
  • Paralyzed bowels;
  • Speech impairment and slurring; and
  • Inability to urinate, despite fluids taken

A blood test and possibly, a stool culture, are usually necessary to confirm Botulism. Lab tests on the suspected food can also confirm the Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum).

Treatment: Our immune systems need help fighting this illness so people diagnosed with Botulism require prescription medicine to fight the bacteria. If they have difficulty breathing or swallowing, patients must typically stay in hospital. People with difficulties in swallowing may be given fluids intravenously (by “IV”) or by feeding tube to keep up their body’s strength and immune function. By law, doctors must notify state, provincial or national health authorities, including US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) or Health Canada (as applicable) if their patients are diagnosed with Botulism. This is so the contaminated food can be removed from stores and further illness can be prevent.

The important take-away is that if you feel really ill – especially after eating Botulism-prone foods (see above) or during an publicized Botulism outbreak – you should seek immediate medical attention. Do not wait to “get over it”; get to your MD or local hospital and tell them you suspect Botulism. It may be helpful to bring the suspect food with you, preferably in a sealed bag.

 


Cyanogenic Glycosides Poisoning

Cyanogenic Glycosides or cyanoglycosides account for approximately 90% of the wider group of plant toxins known as cyanogens. The key characteristic of these toxins is cyanogenesis, the process by which toxic hydrogen cyanide is released into the body. Examples of Cyanogenic Glycosides include Linamarin from cassava and Amygdalin from the seeds of stone fruit. The major edible plants in which Cyanogenic Glycosides occur are almonds, sorghum, cassava, lima beans, stone fruits such as peaches and bamboo shoots.

Bitter almonds are the wild form of the edible “sweet almonds.” Bitter almonds contain a chemical called Glycoside Amygdalin, which becomes transformed into toxic Prussic Acid (Hydrogen Cyanide) after they are crushed, chewed or other digested.

Suspect Cyanogenic Glycosides Poisoning? Eating foods that contain Prussic Acid may result in some or all of the following signs and clinical symptoms within minutes:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • rapid breathing
  • rapid heart rate
  • restlessness
  • weakness

Exposure to higher quantities of food containing Prussic Acid may cause other more serious health effects including:

  • convulsions
  • loss of consciousness
  • low blood pressure
  • lung injury
  • slow heart rate
  • respiratory failure leading to death

Immediate treatment at a hospital or other emergency medical facility is necessary; do not delay!

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.

E. & O. E.

 


E. coli poisoning

What is E. coli enteritis: E. coli poisoning is a serious and potentially deadly illness, typically transmitted using the fecal-mouth route by eating or drinking foods or beverages contaminated with E. coli, eating unpasteurized (i.e., raw) milk and (raw) milk products and untreated water.

Signs & Symptoms: Common symptoms of E. coli poisoning include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), vomiting, nausea and headache. People particularly at risk for serious E. coli illness and complications are the very young, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems.

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.

E. & O. E.

 


Lead poisoning:

About Lead poisoning: Lead is highly toxic and can enter the body through the digestive system or the lungs. It accumulates throughout the body and can damage nearly every one of the body’s systems, but is particularly toxic to the nervous system including the brain. Lead is especially dangerous to children even at low exposure levels and has also been clinically shown to have the potential to cause intellectual, behavioral and other problems in kids. Potential health effects associated with exposure to high levels of Lead in all ages include vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma and death.

Common sources of Lead include the following:

  • House paint before 1978. Even if the paint is not peeling, it can be a problem. Lead paint is very dangerous when it is being stripped or sanded. These actions release fine Lead dust into the air. Infants and children living in pre-1960s housing (when paint often contained Lead) have the highest risk of Lead poisoning. Small children often swallow paint chips or breathe dust from Lead-based paint.
  • Toys and furniture painted before 1976. After this date, paint was reformulated to remove Lead Painted toys and decorations made outside the US and Canada.
  • Lead bullets, fishing sinkers, curtain weights.
  • Old plumbing, pipes and faucets. Lead can be found in drinking water in homes containing pipes that were connected with Lead solder. Although new building codes require Lead-free solder, Lead can be still found in some modern faucets.
  • Soil contaminated by decades of car exhaust or years of house paint scrapings. Lead is more common in soil near highways and old houses.
  • Hobbies involving soldering, stained glass, jewelry making, pottery glazing, and miniature Lead figures (always look at labels to help determine risk).
  • Children’s paint sets and art supplies (again, always look at labels to help determine risk).
  • Pewter pitchers and dinnerware.
  • Storage batteries.

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.

E. & O. E.

 


Hepatitis A:

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from exposure to the Hepatitis A virus, including from contaminated food, beverages or even shaved or cubed ice. The illness can range from a mild sickness lasting a few weeks to a serious illness lasting several months.

Illness generally occurs within 15 to 50 days of exposure and includes fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.

Hepatitis A vaccination can prevent illness if given within two weeks of exposure to a contaminated food. In rare cases, particularly consumers who have a pre-existing severe illness or are immune compromised, Hepatitis A infection can progress to liver failure.

Persons who may have consumed affected food or beverages contaminated with the Hepatitis A virus should contact with their MD, other qualified health care professional or local health department to determine if a vaccination is appropriate. If you have any of the symptoms listed above you should contact your MD immediately.

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.

E. & O. E.

 


Listeria:

What is Listeriosis: Listeriosis (Listeria poisoning) is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a gram-positive bacterium. It can be found in animals (both domesticated pets and wild creatures) as well as in the soil and water.

Signs & Symptoms: Most otherwise healthy people who are infected with Listeria monocytogenes show few or even no symptoms. Even when symptoms are present, they are generally mild and include fever, muscle aches, nausea or diarrhea. People with depressed immune response, however, including pregnant women (and especially their fetus or newborn), people with Cancer as well as those with AIDS, are at higher risk for contracting Listeriosis and are more likely to have a more severe form of the disease.

Risks & Dangers: Depending on the timing of the infection, Listeriosis during pregnancy can cause a miscarriage or fetal death. In other cases, people can develop Septicemia (a serious blood infection) or Meningitis (an inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord). Listeriosis can also cause Endocarditis (inflammation of the membrane that lines the inside of the heart). If Listeriosis infects the lungs, it can cause Pneumonia. All of these conditions require immediate medical intervention. Even in its milder forms, Listeriosis can cause abscesses; Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye – sometimes called “Pinkeye”); Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the GI tract including the stomach and intestines); and skin lesions.

Prevention:

  • Beef, pork, poultry and other animal-sourced foods can transmit Listeria monocytogenes. You should thoroughly cook all raw food from animal sources. Never consume raw or undercooked, meat, poultry or fish.
  • Soft cheeses, deli meats, and cold salads from salad bars (self-served or deli-packed) can also harbor Listeria monocytogenes and should be avoided if you are pregnant or have a suppressed immune system.
  • Non-Pasteurized (or “raw”) dairy products (including soft cheeses, milk and yogurt) have also led to outbreaks of Listeriosis. Always cook food thoroughly. Traveling? Avoid non-Pasteurized dairy products, regardless of how safe the local population assures you the food might be.
  • Wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods. To avoid cross-contamination, use separate cutting boards and implements for uncooked and uncooked foods.
  • Avoid refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pâtés and meat spreads can be safer.
  • Hot dogs, luncheon meats, deli meats or other prepared meats should be avoided unless they are thoroughly reheated until steaming hot. Never eat raw hot dogs or other pre-cooked meats. Avoid getting “juices” from hot dog packages (blood and other dangerous materials) on other foods, utensils and food prep surfaces; wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats and deli meats.
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as cod, mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna or whitefish is most often labeled as “nova-style”, “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” The fish is found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens. Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.
  • Pregnant women should avoid all contact with wild and domestic animals and wash their hands, face and other affected areas should contact occur.

If you suspect your food is contaminated, do not eat it. Contact the retailer for a refund or replacement. Wash your hands, contaminated preparation surfaces, cutlery and serving dishes thoroughly with hot soapy water and dry. Contact your MD immediately for appropriate treatment should you experience Listeriosis symptoms.

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.

E. & O. E.

 


Malachite Green:

Malachite Green is an organic compound that is used as a non-food product dye and more controversially, as an antimicrobial substance in aquaculture.

The substance is banned for food applications in the United States, Canada and the UK. In 1992, Canadian health authorities determined that eating fish contaminated with Malachite Green posed a significant health risk.

Due to its low manufacturing cost, however, Malachite Green is still used in certain countries with less restrictive laws for nonaquaculture purposes. In June 2007, the US FDA blocked the importation of several varieties of seafood due to continued Malachite Green contamination.

Malachite Green is suspected, but no conclusively proven, to be a Carcinogen (i.e., Cancer-causing substance) after lung adenomas in male rats fed Malachite Green were discovered but no incidences of actual liver tumors with direct traceability are currently known.

E. & O. E.

 


Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning:

About Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning: Paralytic shellfish poisoning (“PSP”) is one of four generally recognized syndromes of shellfish poisoning. PSP is a very serious and potentially life threatening food poisoning caused by consuming contaminated bivalve mollusks, specifically mussels, clams, oysters and scallops.

These shellfish are filter feeders and, by definition, can accumulate neurotoxins, called Saxitoxin, as they feed. This neurotoxin poison cannot be tasted or smelled nor can it be deactivated by cleaning or cooking. When humans consume mollusks contaminated with neurotoxins, the resulting PSP can be fatal in extreme cases, but especially in immunocompromised individuals. Children are more susceptible to PSP injury.

Symptoms of PSP can appear very quickly – typically from ten (10) to thirty (30) minutes after ingestion – and include severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and intense stomach pain. Other symptoms include tingling or burning in the lips, gums, tongue, face, neck, arms, fingers, legs and toes. Shortness of breath, dry mouth, a feeling of asphyxia, confusion or slurred speech, and loss of coordination are also known symptoms.

If you suspect your food is contaminated, do not eat it. If you experience these symptoms and suspect Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, seek medical care on an emergency basis, taking the suspected contaminated food for further analysis.

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.

E. & O. E.

 


Patulin Contamination:

About Patulin Contamination:

Patulin is a mycotoxin produced by a variety of molds, especially Aspergillus and Penicillium. Patulin is commonly found in rotting apples and some studies have shown that it is genotoxic, meaning it has the possibility of carcinogenic (i.e., Cancer forming) behaviour.

Patulin has also been found in a wide range of foods such as grains, other fruits besides apples, vegetables and even shellfish. Several countries including the United States, Canada and the member countries of the European Union have instituted Patulin restrictions in apple products. The UN’s World Health Organization (“WHO”) recommends a maximum concentration of 50 µg/L in apple juice.

In general, Patulin exposure can be reduced by following good farming practices such as removing mold, washing and removing rotten or damaged fruits (especially apples) from the supply chain. At the consumer level, it is vital to wash and inspect each apple or other food before for eating. Heat at normal cooking temperatures found in baking, canning or juice production has been found to have little or no effect on the possible toxic effects of Patulin so vigilance is key.

Patulin present in apple juice has been shown to survive the pasteurization processes but there is some evidence that fermentation destroys the threat. Consequently, alcoholic ciders (in which fermentation has occurred) appear to pose much less risk of Patulin ingestion than do non-alcoholic ciders, drinks and juices. Safely toss out rotting fruit to reduce risks and wash your hands well afterwards.

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.
E. & O. E.

 


Salmonellosis (Salmonella poisoning):

About Salmonella Poisoning: Salmonellosis (Salmonella poisoning) is a very common type of food poisoning caused by the Salmonella bacterium. Although there are thought to be over 2,000 different kinds of these bacteria, only a comparative few make humans sick. Salmonella serotype “Typhimurium” and Salmonella serotype “Enteritidis” are thought to the two most common types in North America. As an example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) estimates more than 3,300 Americans may get Salmonellosis every day.

Signs & Symptoms: Generally speaking, the time between infection and when one shows signs of illness is between 8 to 48 hours. Symptoms are usually confined to the gastrointestinal (“GI”) tract and include the following:

  • Abdominal pain, cramping, or tenderness
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Risks & Dangers: In young children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and those undergoing some Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, Salmonellosis may cause serious and sometimes deadly infections. Even in otherwise healthy people, Salmonellosis may cause high fever, severe headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. In rare cases, however, Salmonellosis can cause more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected Aneurysms) Endocarditis and Arthritis. You should suspect Salmonella poisoning (and be sure to tell your health care providers) if you feel sick and have done any of the following:

  • Eaten foods such as chicken, turkey, bird dressing (especially if cooked inside the bird rather than separately outside the bird), or eggs that have not been cooked well or stored properly. Gently washing eggs before they are cracked (and washing your hands well after handling) may help avoid Salmonella contamination passing from the outside of the eggs into your food.
  • Been in contact with family members who have had Salmonella infection, especially within the last few months.
  • Visited or worked in a hospital, nursing home, or other long-term health facility.
  • Been near (to touched someone who has been near) exotic pets such as iguanas, geckoes and other lizards as well as turtles or snakes (reptiles are carriers of Salmonella). Kids can contract Salmonella from petting zoos and class trips to pet stores and animal shelters.
  • Had a weakened immune system, due to disease, transplant or are young or old.
  • Regularly use medicines that block acid production in the stomach, these include both prescription acid blockers and over the counter (“OTC”) meds. These can affect the lining of the GU tract.
  • Been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, two conditions that include damage to the GI tract
  • Used antibiotics in the recent past. Antibiotics often modify and/or kill the normal bacterial flora in the gut, making it more susceptible to attack.

Prevention: Contaminated foods, especially “protein foods” such as raw meat, poultry and eggs that have not been properly cooked, are the most common source of Salmonellosis. Not washing fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, as well as not thoroughly cleaning work surfaces (including cutting boards, counter tops and cutlery) used to prepare raw meat and other foods in the kitchen can also cause Salmonella poisoning. Food can also be contaminated by food handlers who do not thoroughly wash their hands with lots of soap and hot water after handling raw meat or visiting the bathroom.

Salmonella can be found in the feces of many animals, especially those with diarrhea. Exotic pets, such as snakes, turtles and reptiles, may carry Salmonella even when they appear healthy. People, especially kids, can become infected if they do not wear nitrile gloves and wash their hands well after contact with these exotic animals or eat while playing their pets. If you suspect your food is contaminated, do not eat it. Contact the retailer for a refund or replacement. Wash your hands, contaminated preparation surfaces, cutlery and serving dishes thoroughly with hot soapy water and dry.

Contact your MD immediately if you experience Salmonellosis symptoms.

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.

E. & O. E.

 


Scombroid food poisoning:

About Scombroid food poisoning: Scombroid food poisoning is a foodborne illness that results from eating spoiled, decayed or diseased fish. It is a common type of seafood poisoning. The substance believed to be responsible for Scombroid food poisoning is Histamine, an organic compound involved in immune responses as well as regulating important physiological functions in the gut and acting as a neurotransmitter in the nervous system.

In Scombroid food poisoning it is thought that excessive levels of Histamine are formed as the flesh of the fish begins to decay. Because Histamine is a naturally occurring substance that is released by our immune systems after being exposed to an allergen, Scombroid food poisoning can be misdiagnosed as a food allergy, rather than bacterial poisoning.

Symptoms of Scombroid food poisoning can vary from person to person and some people may not become symptomatic. Generally speaking, the onset of symptoms begins rather quickly, typically about 30 minutes to one (1) hour after ingestion of the decayed fish and can include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Flushing
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea, and
  • Headache

Other symptoms can include:

  • Itching
  • Hives
  • A burning sensation in the mouth and/or throat
  • Fever
  • An Unusual Heart Pounding Sensation.

In severe cases and in individuals who are particularly sensitive, reactions include potentially life-threatening drops in blood pressure, racing heart and respiratory difficulties such as wheezing.

If you suspect your food is contaminated, do not eat it. If you experience these symptoms and suspect Scombroid food poisoning, seek medical care on an emergency basis, taking the suspected contaminated food for further analysis if possible.

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.

E. & O. E.

 


Vibrio Parahaemolyticus Poisoning

About Vibrio parahaemolyticus Poisoning: Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause Cholera and Vibrio vulnificus. When ingested, V. parahaemolyticus causes watery diarrhea and other GI symptoms including abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills, typically within 24 hours of ingestion. In otherwise healthy people, illness from V. parahaemolyticus lasts about three (3) days. Severe disease is rare and occurs more commonly in people with weakened immune systems. V. parahaemolyticus can also cause an infection of the skin when an open wound is exposed to warm seawater.

Most people become infected with V. parahaemolyticus by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters. Less commonly, this organism can cause a skin infection when an open wound is exposed to warm seawater.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) estimates approximately 4500 cases of V. parahaemolyticus infection occur each year in the United States but underreporting means few cases make their way into doctors’ offices, clinics or hospitals.

Treatment is not necessary in most cases of V. parahaemolyticus infection and mostly deals with symptom relief: drink plenty of liquids to replace fluids lost through diarrhea and keep warm if chilled. In severe or prolonged illnesses, antibiotics such as Tetracycline or Ciprofloxicin can be used. The choice of antibiotics should be based on specific antimicrobial susceptibilities of the particular organism.

If you suspect your food is contaminated, do not eat it. If you experience these symptoms and suspect Vibrio parahaemolyticus Poisoning, seek medical care on an emergency basis, taking the suspected contaminated food for further analysis.

Please Note: The above material is for informational use only and not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please contact your primary care physician or local hospital ER if you feel sick.

E. & O. E.


 

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