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Yes, Vegetarians Can Get Food Poisoning, Too

Posted in Food Safety,Our Blog on June 19, 2020

There has been a trend in the way certain people think, and I think it is time to set the record straight. Before I get into the heart of the matter, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am in no way attacking the way people want to live their lives. What I want is to clear the air of incorrect thinking. Now. that I have you scratching your head, let me explain. There are many vegetarians and vegetarian articles claiming that the vegetarian lifestyle keeps one safe from food poisoning. And taking it a step farther that these types of habits are healthier. No. Vegetarian food poisoning is still a thing.

I want us to discuss, backed by research from the professionals, the pros and cons of eating vegetarian and look at the facts concerning food poisoning so we can dispel some myths. As with any research, you must decide for yourself what you want to do; but facts are always hard to ignore.

Mythbusting Vegetarian Food Poisoning Myths

A recent letter to the editor of a small newspaper, written by a vegetarian, claimed that “healthful, delicious  plant-based veggie burgers, veggie dogs, and soy nuggets” mean that food poisoning is a thing of the past; as long as you eat these foods. It is a shame that people who want to have a voice have their facts so wrong.

Myth: You cannot get food poisoning from vegetable or plant-based foods.

Fact: According to the CDC: “While certain foods are more likely to make you sick, any food can get contaminated in the field, during processing, or during other stages in the food production chain, including through cross-contamination with raw meat in kitchens.” (source)

The false argument that plant-based or tofu-based foods cannot carry bacteria is dangerous. Giving people a sense of security in what they eat can lead to food poisoning or worse. This is where taking the time to become informed from the correct sources can keep us from making mistakes.

Myth: Vegan food is safer than normal food.

Truth: Vegan foods that have little or no preparation time fall into the category of high-risk. These foods can be a breeding ground for bacteria the same as non-vegan foods:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Cooked rice
  • Unpasteurized juices
  • Raw sprouts
  • Bread
  • Tofu

Bacteria do not discriminate when it comes to where it lives. And for those of us who have had the pleasure of food poisoning’s company, we know it does not discriminate on how sick we can be. This is especially true when it comes to unpasteurized juices.

What is Food Poisoning?

Before we go any further, I want to take a moment and refresh our memories on what food poisoning is, what the symptoms are, and how we get it. For those of you who have not experienced food poisoning, count yourself lucky.

Food poisoning is when we ingest food that has been contaminated with a wide range of pathogens that cause an ill and sometimes violent reaction. Due to the unseen nature of bacteria, it is difficult to know what foods are contaminated, therefore we have in place certain practices and procedures to help keep us safe.

These guidelines, while simple to look at, are vital to food safety:

  • Clean – Wash your hands and surfaces before preparing meals
  • Separate – Keep cross-contamination to a minimum by cleaning surfaces in between food items
  • Cook – Follow proper cooking guidelines to kill off bacteria
  • Chill – Place leftovers in containers, and in the refrigerator, to keep bacteria from growing

When one of these steeped in food preparation falls down, the risk of contaminated food rises. Following every step can ensure a risk free food experience.

Signs and Symptoms

You feel that something isn’t right. Your skin tingles as you go over in your mind if you might be getting the flu, who you have been around, or what you ate. The gurgling in your stomach tells you that the first two thoughts are not what your body is telling you as your temperature spikes. In a panic, you race for the bathroom, barely making it before your body tells you loud and clear there is a problem: you have food poisoning.

While everyone is different and everyone reacts differently to food poisoning, there are a few constants we can watch out for:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

It is important to seek medical attention if any or all of these symptoms appear. And as difficult as it may be, keeping hydrated will go a long way to ensure your recovery is speedy.

Taking this a step further, I wanted to give you all the information you can in order to make more decisions. I know, thanks right? But the more you know the better equipped you are to eat healthier and safer.

I wanted to briefly touch on the debate of if these types of foods are healthier for you. As with any debate, for every 100 people who will agree there are 100 others who will not; so the choice is yours.

Dietitians are claiming that while veggie burgers are healthy to eat due to the ingredients, they are not healthier than meat burgers. Again, I am not trying to cause division or force an opinion; I want to simply state facts and have you decide. Here are a some links to the debate to get you started. I encourage you to take the time to read them over and decide for yourself:

Whole Foods view via CNN

Plant-based burger debate via FOX News

Understanding what food poisoning is and how to prevent it is the first step to not becoming ill. Sure, you could do everything right and somehow bacteria will still find its way onto your food. The takeaway is that it doesn’t matter if it is meat or a meat substitute; food poisoning is a real threat to both kinds of food.

After we have read through all of the information (and ventured out to look for more on our own) it is easier to make informed decisions instead of listening blindly to someone who doesn’t know all the facts.

However you decide to eat, it is important to use healthy practices in order to stay safe.

By: Dwight Spencer