They say, in times like this where there is a pandemic in the world, it is only safe to store enough food. Because who knows, the supermarket staff or the vegetable vendor might decide to self-quarantine, leaving you with no source of fresh food.
Thankfully, in Uganda, shops are still open and there is still plenty of fresh food supply. But still, stocking food is a good habit. However, what might not be a brilliant idea is storing cooked food for a long time, perhaps more than five days.
Storing cooked food
A number of people I know due to jobs that demand that one spend unnatural hours at the work place prefer to cook their food at the weekend and then refrigerate it, taking it out only to microwave small portions. This they do because there is no time to cook daily meals although for some people it is just a severe case of laziness.
Until a month ago, I was one of these people. Two weeks before my sudden conversion to responsible adulthood, I went through my Sunday evening routine of cooking several dishes and then carefully shelving them in the fridge. On the subsequent evenings, I would serve a portion onto a plate, warm it for five minutes, and just like that dinner would be served.
I did the same on Friday night and that, dear reader, was when it all started. My tummy hurt all night till the next morning. Saturday came with shivers and throwing up and then later, the runs.
Being the unserious human I am, I decided to wait it out instead of going to see a doctor. By Sunday night, the runs were cleared and I was not throwing up anymore. So I thought I was fine. Wrong.
Throughout the following week, I continued to experience horrible stomach pain which would last for about two minutes only to reoccur after three or four hours.
I was not eating much for I had lost appetite and people were starting to smile at me sheepishly because my now bloated tummy looked like a baby bump. I took a few pain killers and drunk lots of water hoping this was all I needed.
At the end of the week, the runs returned, and that was when I knew that I had to carry my diseased self to hospital.
H. Pylori scare
I sat in the doctors little room and explained to the physician my problems. He quickly said he suspected that H. Pylori, a bacteria responsible for peptic ulcers was the cause of my troubles. He said I had probably eaten faecal matter in my food and as if to tell me that he did not blame me, he quickly added, “the person who prepares your food must have had unwashed hands.”
I wanted to tell him that I prepare my own food but I was too scared and disgusted by the idea of ingesting faecal matter so I just sat there cat-eyed. He said to be sure, we would do a stool analysis.
I walked to the cashier to pay for the test. He smiled and handed me a sample container but declined to take my money, (Shs25, 000) saying: “You first go and try, it might refuse to come. If you succeed, then you can pay.”
I am proud to announce that I was successful. The lab tested and when the results were ready, I was called to the doctor’s cubicle again. This doctor seemed disappointed when he told me, that it was not H. Pylori after all, but a bug that was brought about by eating over-stayed food.
Recovery and reform
Relief is what I felt as I proceeded to buy the prescribed antibiotics and follow doctor’s orders that included staying away from sweet drinks (the doctor said these would make the situation worse) and resorted to drinking plenty of clear fluids, mostly water. I have since revised my eating and cooking habits. No more eating food that is not freshly made (easier said than done).
What experts say
Dr Mark Kirabo, a private medical practitioner, defines food poisoning as an illness caused by the consumption of food or water contaminated with bacteria and/or their toxins, or with parasites, viruses, or chemicals. The most common pathogens are Norovirus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Kirabo says symptoms of food poisoning vary in degree and combination. They may include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, headache, fever and many others.
“More serious cases of food poisoning can result in life-threatening neurologic, hepatic, and renal syndromes leading to permanent disability or death,” he notes.
Kirabo says examination of patients suspected of having food poisoning should focus on assessing the severity of dehydration. He adds that the main objective in managing patients with food poisoning is adequate rehydration and electrolyte supplementation, which can be achieved with either an oral rehydration solution or intravenous solutions in severely dehydrated individuals or those with intractable vomiting.
“Patients should avoid milk, dairy products, and other lactose-containing foods during episodes of acute diarrhea, as these individuals often develop an acquired disaccharidase deficiency due to washout of the brush-border enzymes,” he says.
Dr Mark Kirabo, a private medical practitioner says the best ways 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, Keep all foods at appropriate temperatures (ie, refrigerated items: < 40°F; hot items: >140°F),among others.