Updated 03 March 2015

Load shedding sparks food poisoning fear

Eskom's blackouts can result in food going off – and if you eat it you may run the risk of food poisoning.


The Western Cape Health Department has asked residents to be careful of eating food that has spoiled because of Eskom's scheduled blackouts.

Food doesn't always smell bad when going off, and eating spoiled food can be very dangerous.

"We encourage the public to make arrangements not to consume food that became too warm, and to sterilise food containers such as baby bottles ahead of time to prevent diarrhoea," spokesperson for the Western Cape Health Department Mark van der Heever told Health24.

Read: The health dangers of load shedding

Health24 resident doctor Heidi van Deventer advised anyone who thinks they may have eaten food that has gone off to watch out for the warning symptoms of food poisoning. These include fever, headache, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

"Food poisoning is very dangerous in adults but especially in children; they dehydrate extremely quickly and this could be life threatening. If you or your children show any of these signs, go to the nearest doctor, hospital or clinic for treatment. Do not delay."

Read: Prevention of food poisoning

Van Deventer also offered steps to take to prevent food poisoning:

- Food does not have to smell bad to be off.
- Never eat food that has been out in the sun, car or warm place for a while.
- Look at the colour, if in any doubt, do not eat. Food items with even a tinge of blue or grey is not good.
- Always wash your hands and your kids' hands and especially while working with food.

Here are some tips for your fridge:

- Do not leave food open in the fridge.
- Keep you fridge clean and wrap food or keep it in containers.
- Don't keep meat or dairy products for long periods.
- Store delicate foods just below the freezer because it is coolest there.
- The compartments of the refrigerator door is the warmest section of the fridge.
- Keep the fridge closed while the electricity is off because the temperature increases when the door is opened

Load shedding no threat to Cape hospitals

Van der Heever assured the public that the City's hospitals were prepared to deal with power failures. "All hospitals are equipped with functioning generators."

The generators are programmed to kick in automatically when the power goes out. "This immediate start-up ensures that there is no negative effect on life-supporting equipment during power outages."

Read: First aid tips for emergencies

Van der Heever also said that plans are in place to ensure that medicines that need to be refrigerated are stored in specialised fridges that can maintain the required temperatures for up to 6 hours.

"At facilities where there are no generators, medication is moved to the fridges at the hospital pharmacies."

He added that the City's Emergency Medical Services (EMS), which provide a 24-hour medical response and pre-hospital care service to the public, has portable generators that can be transported to facilities in need.

A headache for clinics

Meanwhile, Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli told Health24 that load shedding has impacted on City health facilities.

"Load shedding affects the clinic reception areas. Folders take much longer to locate, folders cannot be created in the system, staff cannot print labels, staff cannot access the laboratory results electronically, and staff cannot capture the work done until power is restored", she explained.

Also read:

Food poisoning facts
The poisons that lurk in most households
Load shedding killed my baby

Image: Fridge with food from Shutterstock


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