The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday urged the public not to eat wildlife or unidentified wild plants, as they could be fatal, with nearly 7,000 people affected by food poisoning last year, including two deaths due to wildlife consumption.
The number of food poisoning incidents increased by nearly 50 percent last year, from 398 cases involving 4,616 people in the previous year to 503 cases involving 6,944 people, FDA data showed.
That figure was the second-highest in history, the FDA said, adding that the highest number was recorded in 1997, with 7,235 people.
Photo: Hua Meng-ching, Taipei Times
Among the 503 cases, 87 were food poisoning clusters affecting 4,019 teachers and students, due to contaminated food provided by caterers, the agency said.
The major causes of food poisoning last year included toxins produced by two kinds of bacteria — Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus — both of which grow in food that has been improperly stored, the FDA said, citing as an example a person who fell ill after eating a souffle, as the dessert had spawned S aureus after having been left at room temperature for a prolonged period.
“Danger zone” is a medical term defined as the temperature range in which food-borne pathogens can grow, with the range falling between 7°C and 60°C, said Yen Tzung-hai (顏宗海), director of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Clinical Toxicology.
In summer, high temperatures can easily cause bacteria to grow in food and infect people with acute gastroenteritis, which is characterized by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever, Yen said.
Norovirus was another major cause of food poisoning last year, the FDA said.
Taiwan had no cases of death due to food poisoning for six consecutive years until last year, when two people died after eating wildlife, FDA official Chou Pei-ju (周珮如) said.
One died after drinking soup made with a “frog” that he caught, which was later identified as a poisonous Central Formosa toad, or Bufo bankorensis.
The other person died after eating self-picked wild mushrooms, which included false parasol, a poisonous fungus, Chou said.
Past analyses showed that some people accidentally ate poisonous toads thinking they were edible frogs, said Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌), a toxicologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
The mortality rate in patients who consumed toxins produced by animals is higher than those produced by plants, Yang added.
Another popular misconception is that only animals and plants that are bright and vivid in color are poisonous, Yang said, urging people to exercise more caution, stop eating wildlife and safeguard their health.
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