Food Poisoning - an overview (2023)

To control food poisoning and spoilage microorganisms in these new food habitats, while keeping loss of product quality to a minimum, a hurdle technology approach is advocated that involves the educated selection and use of a set of preservative factors that adequately can ensure product stability and safety.

From: Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology (Second Edition), 2014

Related terms:

  • Toxin
  • Diarrhea
  • Enterotoxin
  • Intoxication
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Salmonellosis
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Food Poisoning, Bacterial

Fred F. Ferri MD, FACP, in Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2022, 2022

Physical Findings & Clinical Presentation

Any combination of GI symptoms and fever. Orthostatic pulse and blood pressure changes should be noted

Specific organisms suspected on the basis of the incubation period and predominant symptoms (Table 1), although a great deal of overlap exists


Short incubation period (1-6 hr): Involve the ingestion of preformed toxin; noninvasive.


S. aureus: Nausea, profuse vomiting, and abdominal cramps common; diarrhea possible, but fever uncommon; usually resolves within 24 hr; foods implicated in outbreaks include meats, mayonnaise, and cream pastries.


B. cereus: Two forms, a short incubation (emetic) form (characterized by vomiting and abdominal cramps in virtually all patients, diarrhea in one third of patients, fever uncommon) and a long incubation (diarrheal) form; illness usually mild, resolves within 12 hr; unrefrigerated rice most often implicated as vehicle. Other sources include gravy, meats, stews, vanilla, and sauces.


Moderate incubation period (8-16 hr): Involves the invivo production of toxin; noninvasive.


C. perfringens: Severe crampy abdominal pain and watery diarrhea common; fever and vomiting unlikely; symptoms usually resolving within 24 hr; outbreaks invariably related to cooked meat or poultry that is allowed to cool without refrigeration; most cases in the fall and winter months.C. perfringens is the third most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States.


B. cereus: Diarrheal (or long incubation) form most commonly beginning with diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and occasionally vomiting; fever uncommon; usually resolves within 24 hr; the responsible food is usually fried rice.


Long incubation period (>16 hr): Some toxin-mediated, some invasive.

Toxin-producing organisms include


C. botulinum: Should be considered when a diarrheal illness coincides with or precedes paralysis; severity of illness related to the quantity of toxin ingested; characteristic cranial nerve palsies progressing to a descending paralysis; fever usually absent; usually associated with home-canned foods.


EnterotoxigenicE. coli (ETEC): Most common cause of travelers’ diarrhea; after 1- to 2-day incubation period, abdominal cramps and copious diarrhea occur; vomiting and fever uncommon; usually resolves after 3 to 4 days; vehicle usually unbottled water or contaminated salad or ice.


EnterohemorrhagicE. coli (EHEC): Can cause severe abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea, which may eventually become bloody; bacteria (strain O157:H7) are noninvasive; no fever; illness may be complicated by hemolytic-uremic syndrome; associated with contaminated beef (especially hamburger), unpasteurized milk or juice.Table 2 summarizes the various strains of diarrheagenicE. coli.


V. cholerae: Varies from a mild, self-limited illness to life-threatening cholera; diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, and muscle cramps; no fever; severe cases may progress to shock and death within hours of onset; survivors usually have resolution of symptoms in 1 wk; U.S. cases are either imported or result from ingestion of imported food.

Invasive organisms include


Salmonella: Associated most often with nontyphoidal strains; incubation period generally 12 to 48 hr; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps typical; fever possible; outbreaks of gastroenteritis related to contaminated poultry, meat, and dairy products.


Shigella: Asymptomatic infection possible, but some with fever and watery diarrhea that may progress to bloody diarrhea and dysentery; with mild illness, usually self-limited, resolves in a few days; with severe illness, may develop complications; transmission usually from person to person but can occur via contaminated food or water.


C. jejuni: The most common foodborne bacterial pathogen; incubation period is about 1 day, then a prodrome of fever, headache, and myalgias; intestinal phase marked by diarrhea associated with fever, malaise, and abdominal pain; diarrhea mild to profuse and bloody; usually resolves in about 7 days, but relapse is possible; associated with undercooked meats and poultry, unpasteurized dairy products, and drinking from freshwater streams.


Y. enterocolitica andY. pseudotuberculosis: Infrequent causes of enteritis in the United States; children affected more often than adults; fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain lasting 1 to 3 wk; some with mesenteric adenitis that mimics acute appendicitis; contaminated food or water is usually responsible.


V. parahaemolyticus: In the United States, most outbreaks in coastal states or on cruise ships during the summer months; incubation period usually >1 day, followed by explosive watery diarrhea in the majority of cases; nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and headache also common; fever less common; usually resolves by 1 wk; related to ingestion of seafood.


EnteroinvasiveE. coli (EIEC): A rare cause of disease in the United States; high incidence of fever and bloody diarrhea; may resemble bacillary dysentery.


V. vulnificus: May cause serious, often fatal illness in persons with chronic liver disease; GI symptoms usually absent, but fever, chills, hypotension, and hemorrhagic skin lesions possible; patients with liver disease or at increased risk of developing liver disease should avoid eating raw oysters.

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(Video) What are Food Poisoning Bacteria? Overview Video

Foodborne Diseases

Jean Maguire van Seventer, Davidson H. Hamer, in International Encyclopedia of Public Health (Second Edition), 2017


Foodborne diseases arise from the contamination of food by microbial pathogens, naturally produced toxins, or other chemicals that have entered the food supply chain. Acute gastroenteritis and toxin-mediated food poisoning are the most common forms of illness and can range in severity from mild to serious, even resulting in death. Estimating the disease burden transmitted by food is difficult; nevertheless, an analysis by the World Health Organization estimated a total of 600million episodes of foodborne illness worldwide associated with 420000 deaths in 2010. With increasing globalization and changing methods of food production and distribution, there is ever-increasing potential for widespread outbreaks affecting many people. Prevention and control of foodborne diseases remain a challenge, and antimicrobial resistance among foodborne bacterial pathogens is a growing problem.

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Approach to the Patient with Diarrhea and Malabsorption

Lee Goldman MD, in Goldman-Cecil Medicine, 2020

Environmental and Food Poisonings

Food poisoning refers to the accumulation of toxin in food owing to the growth of toxin-producing organisms, most commonlyStaphylococcus aureus (Chapter 272),Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens (Chapter 280), andClostridium botulinum (Chapter 280). Diarrhea is usually of rapid onset, as early as 4 hours after ingestion, and is often associated with vomiting. Natural toxins also are responsible for mushroom (Amanita) poisoning (Chapter 102), which can also cause acute liver and kidney failure.

Environmental poisonings may be caused by heavy metals (arsenic from rat poison, gold, lead, mercury) that impair cell energy production. Arsenic (Chapter 19) also induces cardiovascular collapse at high doses. Insecticide (organophosphates and carbamates) poisoning occurs most commonly in field workers or from the ingestion of contaminated herbs or teas (Chapter 102); diarrhea, excessive saliva, and pulmonary secretions are caused by acetylcholine-stimulated chloride secretion in intestine and other epithelia. Patients often have associated vomiting and abdominal cramps.

Seafood is a common source of food poisoning, particularly fin fish and bivalve shellfish. Most of these toxins cause varying combinations of gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) and neurologic (tingling and burning around the mouth, facial flushing, sweating, headache, palpitations, and dizziness) symptoms within hours of seafood ingestion (Chapter 104). Similar symptoms are reported in patients with scombroid poisoning, which is caused by ingestion of decaying flesh of blood fish (tuna, mahi-mahi, marlin, or mackerel) that release large amounts of histamine (Chapter 104).

Marine dinoflagellates (algae) produce toxins that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, diarrhetic shellfish poisoning, and ciguatera (Chapter 104). Sporadic outbreaks of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning “red tides” occur when bivalve mollusks ingest dinoflagellates that produce saxitoxins (voltage-sensitive sodium-channel blocker) and okadaic acid (a lipid-soluble toxin that inhibits serine and threonine protein phosphatases 1 and 2A). Ingestion of contaminated mollusks by humans results in diarrhea and neurologic symptoms. Saxitoxins cause predominantly neurologic symptoms (paralytic, neurotoxic, or amnestic shellfish poisonings) and okadaic acid gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhetic shellfish poisoning).

Food-chain passage of another dinoflagellate species (Gambierdiscus toxicus) to fin fish (mackerel, amberjack, snapper, grouper, or barracuda) results in the accumulation of ciguatoxin (Chapter 104) that causes a seafood poisoning called ciguatera. Ciguatoxin activates voltage-sensitive sodium channels and causes neurologic and gastrointestinal symptoms. Fish from the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary (eastern United States) ingest toxic dinoflagellates that causePfiesteria piscicida poisoning. The dinoflagellate toxins cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and neurologic symptoms such as fatigue, myalgias, pruritus, circumoral paresthesias, reversal of hot and cold sensation, psychiatric abnormalities, and memory loss. The neurologic symptoms may persist for months to years. Puffer fish poisoning by tetrodotoxin, a voltage-sensitive sodium-channel blocker produced by the fish, causes neurologic symptoms, respiratory paralysis, and death.

Foodborne Illness

Peter M. Rabinowitz, Lisa A. Conti, in Human-Animal Medicine, 2010

Human Health Clinicians

Consider foodborne illness in all patients presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms or unexplained fever. Take adequate history of food-related exposures.

In evaluating a patient with suspected foodborne illness, ask whether other human beings or animals in the vicinity are also sick.

Report suspected cases of foodborne illness to the health department.

If diagnosing foodborne illness in a farm worker or food industry worker, provide that information to the local health department to consider whether other workers or animals may be at risk.

Counsel patients about food safety in the home for human beings and companion animals (Box 11-1).

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(Video) How to Know if You Have Food Poisoning


Bacillus Species and Related Genera Other Than Bacillus anthracis

John E. Bennett MD, in Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 2020

Food Poisoning

Intoxication from the ingestion ofBacillus species–derived toxins is an uncommon but well described form of food poisoning. A report from England and Wales in the mid-1980s showed that there was 1 food poisoning fromBacillus spp. for every 129 ofCampylobacter, 95 of other bacteria (e.g.,Salmonella, Shigella), and 5.6 ofClostridium perfringens.29 Like other toxin-mediated food poisonings,Bacillus spp. food poisoning occurs within 24 hours of eating, often within a few hours of the offending meal.Bacillus spp. toxins can produce one of two distinct syndromes: diarrheal and emetic. The diarrheal syndrome is characterized by profuse diarrhea and cramping but rarely vomiting or fever. The onset is about 8 to 16 hours after the ingestion of contaminated food, and the illness is brief (median duration, 24 hours). The emetic form (similar toStaphylococcus aureus food enterotoxin) has an even faster onset (1–5 hours) and is characterized by nausea, vomiting, and cramps, although diarrhea can occur in about one-third of cases. It also resolves within 24 hours. The toxins responsible for these two clinical syndromes are quite different. The diarrheal toxin is a mixture of two or more proteins with molecular weights of 36 to 45 kilodaltons (kDa). The precise mode of action is unknown, although in animal models the toxins disrupt cell membranes and may have sphingomyelinase activity. The diarrheal toxin is heat labile and can be reduced or eliminated by heating food to a high enough temperature to kill the vegetative phase of the organism. This is important because it is believed that the ingestion of toxin-producingBacillus spp. can lead to diarrheal food poisoning by elaboration of toxin in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Foods most commonly associated withBacillus spp. diarrheal food poisoning include meats, vegetables, and sauces.29 Because diarrheagenic toxin genes are found in most strains ofB. cereus, vegetative cells are adherent to mucosal surfaces, and the organism is ubiquitous in the environment, it is not known why food poisoning is so infrequent.27,30 Although most isolates of the diarrheal form ofBacillus spp. food poisoning areB. cereus, there have been outbreaks related toB. licheniformis andB. pumilus.31

The emetic toxin is a small peptide of about 10 kDa. It is heat stable and associated with starchy foods, such as rice. This problem is worsened when rice is kept at room temperature overnight (to prevent clumping during refrigeration) and reheated the next day (e.g., fried rice). Heating or reheating food may eliminate viableBacillus spp. organisms and the diarrheal toxin but not the emetic toxin. Strains ofBacillus may produce one toxin or the other but rarely both. Genetic studies of strains that produce emetic toxin show that they belong to a singleB. cereus genetic group (III) and subgroup (BC05), whereas strains producing diarrheal toxin may belong to any one of five of the sevenB. cereus genetic groups.32 More recent scholarship has shown that affiliation with group rather than with species is helpful in understanding the enterotoxigenic properties within theB. cereus group.33 At least one outbreak ofB. licheniformis food poisoning was clinically comparable with the emetic syndrome ofB. cereus, but the polypeptide toxin ofB. licheniformis differs from that found inB. cereus.34 On rare occasions emetic toxin can lead to significant liver disease, including fulminant hepatic failure.35 This is thought to be the result of inhibition of mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation.

Foodborne Disease

Rajal K. Mody, Patricia M. Griffin, in Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases (Eighth Edition), 2015


Foodborne diseases are illnesses that are acquired through ingestion of food contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms, bacterial and nonbacterial toxins, or other substances.


An estimated 48 million foodborne illnesses caused by pathogens or their toxins are acquired annually in the United States.

Many agents that cause foodborne infection can also be acquired in other ways, including ingestion of contaminated drinking or recreational water, through contact with animals or their environment, and from one person to another directly or through fomites.

Some foodborne diseases can lead to long-term sequelae, such as impaired kidney function after Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli infection, Guillain-Barré syndrome after Campylobacter infection, and reactive arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome after a variety of infections.

Groups at higher risk of acquiring or experiencing more severe foodborne disease include infants, young children, pregnant women, older adults, and immunocompromised persons.

A foodborne disease outbreak should be considered when an acute illness, especially with gastrointestinal or neurologic manifestations, affects two or more people who shared a meal. However, most foodborne diseases do not occur in the context of an outbreak.


Many pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites, can cause foodborne disease.

Some illnesses are caused by ingestion of chemicals (e.g., heavy metals, mushroom toxins) or preformed microbial toxins (e.g., staphylococcal toxin, botulinum toxin).


Detection of pathogens has mostly relied on isolating bacterial pathogens in culture, by visualizing parasites by microscopy, and by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays.

Newer molecular tests pose opportunities and challenges to both clinical practice and public health surveillance.

Many intoxications must be diagnosed based on clinical suspicion alone.


Therapy for most foodborne diseases is supportive; replacing fluid and electrolyte losses is important in diarrheal illnesses.

Antimicrobial agents are used to treat parasitic infections and selected bacterial infections.

Resistance to antimicrobial agents complicates treatment and can increase the likelihood of clinically apparent infection.


To reduce contamination, food producers identify points where the risk of contamination can be controlled and use production systems that decrease the hazards.

(Video) What is Food Poisoning? (My Stomach Hurts)

Outbreak investigation is important to identify food safety gaps that may be present anywhere in the food production chain, from the farm to the table.

Individuals can reduce their risk of illness by adhering to safe food handling practices.

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Food Poisoning

Suzanne M. Matsui, in Encyclopedia of Gastroenterology, 2004

Treatment and Prevention

Most food-borne illnesses resolve without specific therapy. General supportive measures are aimed at maintaining adequate hydration and avoiding the use of anti-motility drugs in cases of inflammatory diarrhea.

Food poisoning is preventable. First, proper preparation of food is essential. For example, a common practice is to cook or steam shellfish until the shells just begin to part (usually less than 1min of cooking time). If cooking is terminated at that time, the internal temperature of the shellfish meat will likely not have reached the 85 to 90°C maintained for 1.5min that is required to inactivate hepatitis A virus and noroviruses that may be concentrated in the shellfish.

Second, storage of food at proper holding temperatures will help to prevent many cases of staphylococcal, B. cereus, and C. perfringens outbreaks. Prompt and adequate refrigeration (<40°F) for cold foods and maintenance of temperature (>140°F) for foods served hot are recommended to prevent the growth of bacterial pathogens.

Third, pathogens such as noroviruses, hepatitis A virus, Salmonella typhi, Shigella species, S. aureus, and Streptococcus pyogenes are more likely than other pathogens to be transmitted by an infected food worker who handles the food before it is served. It is, therefore, important for food handlers to practice good hand-washing and maintain good personal hygiene, work with food on appropriately disinfected surfaces with clean implements, and abide by workplace policies that prevent symptomatic (or recently symptomatic) employees from working in food preparation.

In conjunction with these practical guidelines, laws have been enacted to promote the safety of domestic and imported food. The application of sound practices at every level of food production will help to prevent incidents such as the contamination of meat products during slaughter or processing or the contamination of fruits and vegetables by polluted water for washing.

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Food Poisoning

Elaine C. Jong, in The Travel and Tropical Medicine Manual (Fifth Edition), 2017

Advice to Travelers

Travelers are at special risk of food-borne illnesses including food poisoning because of increased exposure to foods prepared outside the home under unknown conditions of preparation and storage. Common advice for prevention of all food-borne illnesses includes selecting food that is freshly prepared, thoroughly cooked, and served piping hot or within 1 hour of preparation. For safety, chicken should be cooked to a temperature above 165° F (74° C), pork above 155° F (68° C), and ground beef above 155° F (68° C): rare or pink meat or poultry should not be consumed. The new instant-read digital food thermometers may be useful for checking the internal temperature of cooked meats and casseroles. Pre-cooked foods served warm or served from chafing dishes should be reheated to over 150° F (66° C) and held at that temperature. Pre-cooked foods served at room temperature, cold foods served in all-day buffets, and baked goods with creamy fillings should be avoided when possible during travel in less-developed areas. Cold foods and leftovers should be refrigerated below 45° F (7° C) until serving. Fermented, salted, or smoked fish and meat products should be avoided in general during travel, unless known to be obtained from reliable sources. Careful selection of food is the only way to avoid food poisoning, as the contaminated food may appear, taste, and smell like safe edible food.

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Foodborne Diseases

Christopher J. Gill, Davidson H. Hamer, in Encyclopedia of Gastroenterology, 2004


Numerous infectious and noninfectious agents can cause foodborne illnesses. Table III summarizes the etiologic breakdown and predicted pathogen-specific mortality for the estimated 38 million yearly cases for which a particular agent has been directly implicated; an additional 38 million unexplained, though probably infectious, cases are believed to occur annually. Numerically, viruses are the most frequent agents of diarrheal disease though only approximately 30% of cases of viral gastroenteritis occur via foodborne transmission as opposed to person-to-person transmission.

TABLE III. Foodborne Illnesses Due to Known Pathogens

PathogenEstimated casesaTotal cases (%)Foodborne (%)Deaths (No.)Fatality rate
Campylobacter spp.2,453,92614.2801240.001
Salmonella, nontyphoidal1,412,4989.7955820.0078
Shigella spp.448,2400.620700.0016
Yersinia enterocolitica96,3680.69030.0005
Toxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC)79,4200.2700&lt;0.001
E. coli O157:H7 (EHEC)73,4800.585610.0083
E. coli non-O157:H7 (EHEC)36,7400.28570.0083
Noncholera Vibrio spp.7,880&lt;0.165200.025
Listeria monocytogenes2,518&lt;0.1995040.2
Brucella spp.1,554&lt;0.150110.05
Salmonella Typhib824&lt;0.18030.004
Vibrio vulnificus94&lt;0.150370.39
Toxin-mediated illnesses
Clostridium perfringens248,5201.81007&lt;0.001
Staphylococcal food poisoning185,0601.31002&lt;0.001
Streptococcal food poisoning50,9200.41000&lt;0.001
B. cereus27,3600.21000&lt;0.001
Clostridium botulinum58&lt;0.110040.08
Giardia lamblia2,000,0001.41010&lt;0.001
Cryptosporidium parvum300,0000.210660.005
Toxoplasma gondii225,0000.850750&lt;0.001
Cyclospora cayetanensis16,2640.1900&lt;0.001
Trichinella spiralis52&lt;0.110000.003
Caliciviruses (includes Norwalk)23,000,00066.640310&lt;0.001
Hepatitis A virus83,391&lt;0.15830.003
Total cases of diarrheal illness38,629,641aBacterial 30%Parasitic 3%Viral 67%

Note. Data from Mead et al. (1999). Emerg. Infect. Dis. 5(5). EHEC, Enterohemorrhagic E. coli; ETEC, enterotoxigenic E. coli.

Case numbers are estimates derived from active and passive surveillance data, hospital discharge diagnoses, historical case ratios, and individual outbreaks.
Greater than 70% of typhoid cases were imported from outside of the United States.

However, most of the severe morbidity and death is due to bacterial pathogens, particularly NTS, Ca. jejuni, and Listeria monocytogenes. Unusual sporadic causes of foodborne illness include intoxications due to inorganic poisons, such as heavy metals and agricultural pesticides, and organic toxins, such as pufferfish poisoning and the hepatotoxic death cap mushroom, Amanita phalloides. Table IV summarizes some of the less commonly encountered agents of foodborne diseases and their syndromes.

TABLE IV. Uncommon Agents of Food Poisoning and Their Syndromes

Syndrome categoriesNature of disease/comments
Gastrointestinal anthraxUsually caused by consumption of animals killed by anthrax; abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, hematemesis, bloody diarrhea, and bacteremia progressing to death from septic shock
TrichinosisIngestion of larvae of Trichinella spiralis in undercooked pork or beef may result in a syndrome of diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting followed by fever, painful myositis, weakness, eosinophilia, and periorbital edema
Fish/shellfish borne
AnisakiasisSyndrome of acute epigastric or abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting after ingesting parasitic larvae in herring, squid, mackerel, salmon, and other white fishes
Ciguatera fish poisoningFollows ingestion of barracuda, red snapper, amberjack, and grouper; dinoflaggelate neurotoxin concentrated in the fish leads to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, hot–cold reversal, myalgias, blurred vision, and paralysis
Scombroid poisoningA pseudo-allergenic, ingested histamine-mediated syndrome of wheezing, flushing, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; colonizing gram-negative bacilli convert fish histadine to histamine within the flesh of the fish
Pufferfish poisoningSodium channel-blocking tetrodotoxin is concentrated in the fish's liver and ovaries; ingestion leads to respiratory failure and paralysis
Shellfish poisoning (red tide)Each syndrome results from dinoflaggellate toxins that are concentrated within the tissues of filter-feeding shellfish
ParalyticSymptoms include paraesthesias, dyspnea, and paralysis
NeurotoxicMilder than paralytic shellfish poisoning; symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, reversal of hot–cold sensation, paraesthesias, and confusion
DiureticDinophysotoxins from the genera Dinophysis and Prorocentrum mediate this acute, self-limited syndrome of diarrhea and vomiting
AmnesticSymptoms include gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, confusion, and temporary or persistent loss of short-term memory formation
Haff syndromeEpidemic rhabdomyolysis due to an unidentified toxin in bottom-dwelling freshwater fish; originally described near the Black Sea; now reported in California also
Mushroom poisoningThe classic example is the lethal hepatotoxin of Amanita phalloides
ErgotismEpidemic gangrenism and/or psychosis due to rye products contaminated by ergots of the fungus Claviceps purpurea
AflatoxinAspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus produce aflatoxin, a potent carcinogen and putative human carcinogen; presents acutely as fever and fulminant hepatitis
NeurolathyrismChronic consumption of the seeds of the grass pea, Lathyrus sativus, causes spasticity and hypermicturation
Hemagglutinin poisoningConsumption of unsoaked and boiled red kidney beans, Phaseolus vulgaris, results in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Ackee fruit (Jamaican vomiting sickness)Underripe fruits contain high concentrations of hypoglycin, a naturally occurring insulin-like substance; symptoms include nausea, vomiting, confusion, and coma

Note. Reprinted from Gill, C.J. (2001). Foodborne illness. Curr. Treat. Options Gastroenterol. 4(1), 23–38, with permission. Copyright Current Medicine Inc.

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Food Poisoning: Epidemiology

C. Rius Gibert, in Encyclopedia of Food and Health, 2016


Foodborne disease or food poisoning is defined as any illness of a toxic or infectious nature contracted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Their epidemiological surveillance is performed using different information systems, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Knowledge about foodborne diseases is continually advancing, in terms of both identification of causal agents or transmission vehicles and prevention and control measures. New challenges are arising, such as the emergence of new pathogens or reappearance of known ones, changes in the population and its eating habits, changes in food production, or the increasingly prevalent international trade of food products.

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What is food poisoning explain? ›

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. It's not usually serious and most people get better within a few days without treatment. In most cases of food poisoning, the food is contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella or Escherichia coli (E. coli), or a virus, such as the norovirus.

What is food poisoning PDF? ›

What Is Food Poisoning? Food poisoning is an illness that occurs after eating or drinking anything that is contaminated. Usually, it is bacteria (germs) on the food that cause illness but sometimes, it can be chemicals, viruses, or parasites.

What are the 4 types of food poisoning? ›

At least 250 different kinds of food poisoning have been documented, but the most common ones are e. coli, listeria, salmonella, and norovirus, which is commonly called "stomach flu." Other less common illnesses that can be transferred from food or food handling are botulism, campylobacter, vibrio, and shigella.

What are the 3 main causes of food poisoning? ›

What causes food poisoning?
  • fresh produce.
  • raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and eggs.
  • dairy products and fruit juices that have not been pasteurized—heated to kill harmful microbes.
  • fish and shellfish.

What are the causes and effects of food poisoning? ›

Foodborne illness, more commonly referred to as food poisoning, is the result of eating contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although it's quite uncomfortable, food poisoning isn't unusual.

Why is it called food poisoning? ›

These toxins are poisons (the reason for the name "food poisoning"), and can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Usually, doctors use "food poisoning" to describe an illness that comes on quickly after eating contaminated food.

What is the classification of food poisoning? ›

Food infections are classified as bacterial, viral, parasitic or fungal. Food poisoning is classified according to the type of toxin that causes it which may be natural, bacterial, fungal or chemical.

What is the most deadliest food poisoning? ›

Salmonella Approximately 1 million people are sickened by Salmonella in the U.S. each year and approximately 380 of them die from the infection. Children are at the highest risk for Salmonella infection. Children younger than 5 have higher rates of Salmonella infection than any other age group.

What are the two main causes of food poisoning? ›

Bacteria and Viruses: Bacteria and viruses are the most common cause of food poisoning. The symptoms and severity of food poisoning vary, depending on which bacteria or virus has contaminated the food. Parasites: Parasites are organisms that derive nourishment and protection from other living organisms known as hosts.

How long can food poisoning last? ›

Symptoms of food poisoning can appear anywhere between four hours and one week after ingesting a contaminated food item, and can persist for as short a time as 24 hours or as long as a week.

What medication helps food poisoning? ›

In some cases, adults can take over-the-counter medicines such as loperamide link (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate link (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate) to treat diarrhea caused by food poisoning.

When can food poisoning start? ›

The time it takes food poisoning symptoms to start can vary. Illness often starts in about 1 to 3 days. But symptoms can start any time from 30 minutes to 3 weeks after eating contaminated food. The length of time depends on the type of bacteria or virus causing the illness.

What are the harmful effects of food poisoning? ›

Bloody diarrhea. High fever (temperature over 102°F, measured in your mouth) Frequent vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration) Signs of dehydration, including little or no urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up.

What parts of the body are affected by food poisoning? ›

In cases of food poisoning, harmful organisms can produce toxins that irritate the lining of your stomach and intestines. This can result in painful inflammation in your stomach, which may cause pain in your abdomen.

What are the complications of food poisoning? ›

The most common serious complication of food poisoning is dehydration — a severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals. If you're a healthy adult and drink enough to replace fluids you lose from vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration shouldn't be a problem.

How do you respond to food poisoning? ›

Food Poisoning Treatment
  1. Avoid solid foods until vomiting ends. Then eat light, bland foods, such as saltine crackers, bananas, rice, or bread.
  2. Sipping liquids may help avoid vomiting.
  3. Don't eat fried, greasy, spicy, or sweet foods.
  4. Don't take anti-nausea or anti-diarrhea medication without asking your doctor.
17 Sept 2021

How does food poisoning spread? ›

There are numerous ways you can contract the virus. This can happen by eating food that someone with the virus has prepared, sharing food or drinks, touching something that has the virus or by being in direct contact with the sick person.

What type of virus is food poisoning? ›

You may hear norovirus illness be called “food poisoning,” “stomach flu,” or “stomach bug.” Noroviruses are the leading cause of foodborne illness, but other germs and chemicals can also cause foodborne illness. Norovirus illness is not related to the flu, which is caused by influenza virus.

Which bacteria is responsible for food poisoning? ›

Salmonella. Clostridium perfringens. Campylobacter. Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)

What is the common symptoms of food poisoning? ›

Symptoms of food poisoning include:
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • diarrhoea.
  • being sick (vomiting)
  • stomach cramps.
  • a high temperature of 38C or above.
  • feeling generally unwell – such as feeling tired or having aches and chills.

What is the fastest acting food poisoning? ›

Staph food poisoning is characterized by a sudden start of nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Most people also have diarrhea. Symptoms usually develop within 30 minutes to 8 hours after eating or drinking an item containing Staph toxin, and last no longer than 1 day. Severe illness is rare.

Can food poisoning cause sudden death? ›

While complications from food poisoning are rare, they can be severe and, in some cases, even fatal.

How common is death from food poisoning? ›

CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

Do you go to hospital with food poisoning? ›

Generally, food poisoning symptoms can be treated at home with rest, fluids, and bland foods. But if you start noticing severe signs of dehydration, abnormal pain, and bloody vomit or stools, it's time to receive food poisoning treatment in the ER.

Can I have food poisoning without vomiting? ›

Clostridium perfringens is yet another bacteria found in raw meat and poultry that leads to a million more cases of food poisoning every year. It produces a toxin inside your intestines that causes cramps and diarrhea. So there's no vomiting or fever with this infection.

How do doctors test for food poisoning? ›

How do doctors diagnose food poisoning? Doctors often diagnose food poisoning based on your symptoms. If your symptoms are mild and last only a short time, you typically won't need tests. In some cases, a medical history, a physical exam, stool tests, and blood tests can help diagnose food poisoning.

How long does it take food poisoning to resolve? ›

Food poisoning usually resolves on its own in 1-2 days, while the stomach flu can last 1-3 days (although sometimes longer). It's important you know what is causing your symptoms so you can properly treat your illness. What are the different types of food poisoning?

Does food poisoning go away without treatment? ›

The condition can be fatal if it's not treated right away. Dehydration due to common symptoms of food poisoning — diarrhea and vomiting — can cause you to lose a lot of fluid in a short time. A lack of fluids in the body can cause tiredness, weakness, and sometimes even irregular heartbeats.

Does food poisoning come on suddenly or gradually? ›

Typically (but not always) food poisoning starts more dramatically with sudden onset of severe symptoms. But viral gastroenteritis can also cause quite severe abdominal pain, and it can make people just as miserable, Saini says.

What to eat after vomiting? ›

Try foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, dry toast, soda crackers (these foods are called BRAT diet). For 24-48 hours after the last episode of vomiting, avoid foods that can irritate or may be difficult to digest such alcohol, caffeine, fats/oils, spicy food, milk or cheese.

What is the food poisoning Class 8? ›

Food poisoning is a food-borne sickness that strikes quickly after you eat or drink anything contaminated. Food can sometimes be damaged by microbes that produce poisonous compounds. The meal becomes poisonous due to toxic chemicals. Nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea are common food poisoning symptoms.

What is food poisoning Class 8 in short? ›

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is an infection or irritation of your digestive tract that spreads through food or drinks. Viruses, bacteria, and parasites cause most food poisoning. Harmful chemicals may also cause food poisoning.

What is food poisoning question and answer? ›

Food poisoning (also known as food-borne illness) occurs when you eat or drink something that contains harmful germs. Q. Consuming adulterated food causes food poisoning.

What is poisoning Short answer? ›

Poisoning is injury or death due to swallowing, inhaling, touching or injecting various drugs, chemicals, venoms or gases. Many substances — such as drugs and carbon monoxide — are poisonous only in higher concentrations or dosages.

What are the major types of poisoning? ›

Common poisons include:
  • Alcohol.
  • Berries and Seeds.
  • Carbon Monoxide.
  • Food Poisoning.
  • Hazardous Chemicals.
  • Herbal Supplements.
  • Household Products.
  • Inhalants.

What is food poisoning called? ›

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms — including bacteria, viruses and parasites — or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning.

Is food poisoning a disease? ›

Food poisoning, or foodborne illness, occurs when you eat contaminated food. Contaminated means it's infected with a toxic organism, such as a bacteria, fungus, parasite or virus. Sometimes the toxic byproducts of these organisms cause food poisoning.

What is the most common cause of poisoning? ›

Death from acute poisoning is most commonly the result of either smoke inhalation or illegal drug use. Severe poisoning is only rarely due to the ingestion of chemicals (particularly detergents and cleaning products), cosmetics, or plant matter.

How do you test for food poisoning? ›

Food Poison Detection. Recent terrorist threats have been made to poison restaurant and hotel food, especially salads, with cyanide. ChemSee's Kits readily detect cyanide in salads and other foods and are the only available detectors for poisons in food.

What will be the first step in treatment of poisoning? ›

Wipe any vomit away from their mouth and keep their head pointing down, to allow any vomit to escape without them breathing it in or swallowing it. Do not give them anything to eat or drink. If the person is not breathing or their heart has stopped, begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) if you know how to.


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