Fact Sheet FS1 Section 2 (Food Poisoning and Bacteria)

Fact Sheet 2: Food Poisoning and Bacteria

Can you always tell if food is unsafe?
No ! Food can contain high levels of bacteria that you cannot see, smell or taste, this is why handling food safely to prevent the growth of food poisoning bacteria is essential.

The people who have least resistance to food poisoning (vulnerable groups) include:
- The elderly
- The sick
- People with low immune systems (e.g. Chemotherapy)
- Infants & children under 5 years old (whose immune systems are still developing)
- Pregnant women/Unborn children (can lead to miscarriage)

Food Poisoning and Spoilage

Causes of food poisoning & food spoilage:

- Chemical Contamination: Chemicals like cleaning products, fly spray, nail polish, gas and other fumes…
- Physical Contamination: Objects that can cause injury if swallowed, like glass, wire, broken plastic from packaging.
- Biological Contamination: Bacteria that cause illness, disease, spoilage, viruses, yeasts moulds and parasites, pests (please see the list below).

 

Common food poisoning bacteria

Bacteria type

Where it is commonly found

What are the symptoms and when will they occur

Salmonella

Meat, poultry, eggs and egg products. On the skin of healthy humans.

Nausea, cramps, diarrhoea, fever and headache. Occurs from 12-36 hours after eating contaminated food and can last for up to one week.

Bacillus cereus

Cereals, rice, soil and dust

Nausea, cramps, diarrhoea. Occurs from 1 to 6 hours after eating contaminated food. Usually lasts for 24 hours.

Staphylococcus aureus

(Golden Staph.)

Meat, poultry, eggs, cream and custard products. On the skin of healthy humans.

Acute vomiting, nausea, cramps and diarrhoea. Occurs from 30 minutes to 8 hours after consuming contaminated food. Illness can last for up to one week.

Clostridium perfringens

(spore forming)

This is a toxic organism found in the intestine of humans, animals, birds and insects. It is also in the soil and dust. On the fruit and vegetables we buy and in and on our bodies.

Nausea, cramps diarrhoea, headache and fever. Occurs from 6 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food. Illness can last for up to one week.

Clostridium botulinum

Soil, raw fish, vegetables, canned fish and corned beef.

Difficulties in breathing and swallowing, paralysis. 12-36 hours.

Listeria monocytogenes

Soft cheeses, dips, incorrectly prepared pates, unwashed fruit and vegetables

Symptoms like the flu - also can cause miscarriage. Can occur from 1-70 days (10 weeks).

Escherichia coli ( E. coli)

Human and animal faeces, sewage, water.

Abdominal pain, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, kidney damage or failure. Can occur 12-24 hours after contamination.


Viruses are not living organisms but parts of reproductive material that attack human cells and “hijack” them. An infected cell then starts making more viruses until it can’t make any more, breaking open and releasing the new viruses into the body to infect more cells. The most important viruses that cause food borne disease are Hepatitis A, Norwalk Virus, Norovirus and some of the Caliciviruses. Viruses don’t grow in food, and one particle is enough to make you sick.
Symptoms can be severe gastroenteritis or similar to the ‘flu’. Generally the illness only lasts one or two days. The exception is Hepatitis A which can be a severe illness and last for many weeks.

 

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