There are other factors responsible for food spoilage in an indirect way. A good example is naturally occurring toxins such as Aflatoxin and Ochratoxin A (both are Mycotoxins). BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or “mad cow disease”) is caused by an unconventional agent. Then there are compounds that gather in the atmosphere – Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). A good example from this category would be Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls. Finally, some metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury can have severe health implications including brain damage, kidney dysfunction, etc.
In the final analysis, control of microbiological spoilage of food requires a clear understanding of the underlying biomechanical and chemical processes that transform palatable food into a poisonous one. Knowledge of different manifestations of the same microbe, the chances of any particular strain of microbe with a given food item, etc., all help in taking effective preventative steps. Checking the merchandise for “expiry” or “best-before” dates, maintaining proper hygiene in the kitchen and storage places, choosing the right temperature and moisture levels for storing food ingredients, etc., are some of the fundamental measures to prevent food spoilage and its consequences of intoxication/poisoning.
The necessity of such measures becomes all the more compulsory when seen in light of the following statistics. Every year 325,000 people are hospitalized due to diseases caused by food. Nearly 76 million people suffer from gastrointestinal problems. More importantly 5,000 people lose their lives due to this. These numbers pertain to the American population alone, which is economically and technologically the most advanced country. The distress and turmoil caused by food-related diseases in the lesser developed parts of the world are much higher.
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