Wednesday, February 08, 2012

It Pays to be Careful

We’ve been hearing about food contamination cases these recent years and the number seems to keep growing. I remember a few years ago when the melamine in imported milk issue came out. I was really worried when the brands were mentioned on TV because we sometimes buy one particular milk that was among the list!

Melamine, for those who don’t know, is an industrial chemical that can cause bladder or kidney stones. People who are constantly exposed to melamine are even said to develop cancer and acute kidney failure. Now that … is …. scary!

photo borrowed from
Another contamination case that concerned me before were the reports about candy products especially the milky one with an edible wrapper because I loved those as a kid! Unfortunately, the sweets have been found to have formaldehyde content which is a chemical used in embalming dead people! Ewww!

Other food products that had contamination issues were peanut butter and some noodle brands which were found out to be crawling with salmonella, a kind of bacteria that primarily attacks the intestines. These health threats thankfully resulted in product recalls from the market as well as demands from the public for the government to implement stricter food safety regulations.

bacteria photo borrowed from
A lot of the incidents mentioned above involve bacteria, the most common cause of food contamination. Since they are products of nature, bacteria are always present in the environment and it’s a fact that hundreds of thousands of people all over the world die yearly from having bacterial infections. Two of the popular food contaminants are salmonella and E. coli while dirty water could be tainted with cholera.

The other day, I saw a TV commercial revealing that the risks of bacterial contamination are no longer just found in food products but are now also in medicines. The TVC revealed a recent test showing that bacteria can be found in several herbal cough remedies at levels beyond the safety standards set by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration.

Of course, bacteria can be harmful to the body if ingested. In fact, ingestion of high levels of aerobic bacteria could have a number of potential negative effects that range from an upset stomach to more serious conditions like fever and gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In severe cases, patients may even become fatally dehydrated.

photo borrowed from
Certain groups at risk for bacterial infections are kids, pregnant women and their fetuses, senior citizens, cancer patients, and HIV patients. Thus, drug manufacturers should really ensure that what they offer the public are made according to manufacturing, storage, and distribution standards.

In the same way, consumers must also be careful about the quality of products they buy.  We really have to be careful in taking herbal medicines  because they're not regulated in the country. I'm also very wary when I read "No therapeutic claims" written on any packaging. In cases like that, I just buy medicines I've proven over the years to work.

There is a misconception that since herbals are natural, the're safe. However, this poses danger  because many patients tend to self-medicate which can lead to overdosage.

We have a responsibility to take care of our bodies well so it is really important to be discriminating with the medicines we buy especially if they are not prescribed by a doctor and can just be bought over the counter. Be advised to always practice caution.

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