NEWS

The dangers of eating fast food in hot summer

Instances of food poisoning are more frequent during the summer due to the inadequate preservation of products as well as our habituation to antibiotics in the food chain. Fast-food outlets pose the biggest problem, which is particularly worrying in view of next year’s Olympic Games. Tests conducted by the National Food Inspectorate (EFET) on various takeaway food products revealed levels of bacteria high enough to provoke food poisoning. The most «dangerous» foods were found to be sandwiches, cooked meat, such as souvlakia, and other snacks, such as slices of pizza, EFET said. However, the inspectorate stressed the significance of the way in which we handle food, noting that 74 percent of food-poisoning cases are the result of infections provoked by the careless preparation of food. EFET conducted tests on a total of 605 samples of food – 305 from outlets in Athens, 200 from Thessaloniki, 50 from Patras, and 50 from Crete – seeking evidence of four types of infectious bacteria blamed for most cases of food poisoning: Escherichia coli (also known as E. coli), staphylococcous, salmonella and listeria. As well as analyzing the samples, EFET officials conducted checks on the health and safety standards at the outlets in question and the extent to which they correspond to European legislation. The results of the tests showed evidence of unacceptable levels of E. coli on 15 percent (87) of the samples – testifying to inadequate observance of health and safety procedures. E. coli can cause severe cases of poisoning when it finds the ideal conditions in which to thrive, such as a rise in temperatures. Evidence of listeria was detected in 0.7 percent (4) of the samples. Listeria thrives in similar conditions – especially on cheese. Traces of staphylococcous were found in 0.5 percent of the samples but not in great enough quantities to provoke food poisoning, while none of the samples tested showed evidence of salmonella. From the foods examined, sandwiches had the highest levels of bacteria. Next were cooked meat snacks, such as souvlakia, then pizza and cheese pies. Cooked fish dishes showed the lowest levels of bacteria, and cooked vegetable dishes and ice creams turned out to be the safest options. A total of 1.5 million Europeans and 80 million Americans come down with food poisoning every year. And what are the reasons for this? The proliferation of fast-food outlets, the volume of food in transit and storage, and the excessive use of antibiotics in animals and humans which create the ideal conditions for infectious bacteria to multiply. «The excessive use of antibiotics in animal fodder – added to promote growth or to avert diseases – has been responsible for the development of hardy bacteria which antibiotics are no longer able to fight,» veterinarian Kaiti Mylona said.