Experts refuse to buy E-coli theory in food poisoning

Last Updated 24 September 2014, 19:07 IST

Even as there are reports of the possibility of Escherichia coli (E-coli) contamination having led to food poisoning in Government Urdu school at DJ Halli here, officials say that it is too early to say anything as the samples are still under cultivation.

Officials at the Public Health Institute, where the samples are being examined said the initial reports have confirmed the presence of E-coli. However, they added that it would only be harmful if the bacterium was found in extremely high numbers.

Speaking to Deccan Herald on Wednesday, Dr Jaykumar, Deputy director, Public Health Institute, said: “E-coli is present even in the food we consume everyday. There is nothing unusual about it.” 

Ruling out the possibility of the lizard spotted in the midday meal being the cause of food poisoning, he said: “Unlike what was claimed, the lizard has not been cooked. Thus, it cannot be the cause of illness.” 

Time span

City doctors who nearly ruled out the possibility of E-coli infection said the time span between consumption of food and symptoms showing up is very minimal and that the cultivation time for E-coli is much more than that. 

Dr Ansar Ahmed, medical superintendent, Epidemic Diseases Hospital, also said the possibility of E-coli leading to illness is minimal.  “Most of our everyday water has E-coli content in it,” he added. 

Besides, it is also understood that the onset of symptoms, in case of an E-coli infection, starts after three days. “Usually it is diarrhoea. The symptoms show up three days after contacting the bacterium,” he added. 

However, he also said that very few strains of the bacterium might be harmful. The possibility of the bacterium surviving in cooked food is minimal as it can be killed on heating.

Also, the digestive acids ensure that a conducive atmosphere is not created for the bacterium to survive. Dr Ahmed also said usually, it is the newborns, very old people  and also immuno-compromised individuals who fall prey to E-coli.

Raw food and contaminated water are the best known means through which E-coli enters human body. However, the food consumed by schoolchildren was cooked. 

Dr Ravindra B S, consultant, gastroenterology, pointed that the breeding time for bacterium was slightly higher. “Staphylococcus aureus is one of the bacterium that breeding between one to eight hours,” he added. 

Nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhoea are usually symptoms of food poisoning. “It is essential to examine the food, stools and blood samples of an individual to assess the cause,” he added. 

(Published 24 September 2014, 19:06 IST)

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