Food poisoning is extremely common. The majority of people get well on their own, without the need for medical intervention, however some cases can be life-threatening without medical intervention.
Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 25th Feb 2022.
Common Causes Of Food Poisoning
Abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea are the most frequent symptoms. Symptoms often appear hours or days after consuming contaminated food. However, it is not uncommon for symptoms to appear days or weeks later. It may be difficult to tell whether you have food poisoning or anything else. It’s also difficult to link the sickness to a particular meal or drink because of the delay.
The same meal may have various effects on different individuals. After only a few nibbles, some people may get sick. Others can eat a lot and have no adverse effects.
People with weaker immune systems, babies and young children, pregnant women, and the elderly are more likely to be affected by the causes of food poisoning.
How Do You Get Sick?
Bacteria, viruses, and parasites may all be the causes of food poisoning. They may be found in foods at any step of their development, including while they’re being grown, packed, transported, stored, or cooked.
Certain foods have a higher risk of containing hazardous substances and become the causes of food poisoning. All examples are raw eggs, unpasteurised milk and juice, soft cheeses, and raw or undercooked meat and shellfish. Another danger is fresh vegetables. Bulk foods may also be troublesome. In a buffet, a single faulty egg might ruin the whole batch of omelettes. If you don’t wash the cutting board or your hands while you prepare various meals, you could end yourself in trouble.
In the summer, your chances of getting food poisoning are greater. Food may deteriorate in as little as one hour in 90-degree temperatures. You’re more likely to consume undercooked grilled foods or handle raw meat without access to soap and water during a picnic or when camping. Bacteria may rapidly multiply in tepid coolers. If you’re having a picnic on a hot day, re-chill leftovers with new ice.
In four out of five instances of food poisoning, the precise cause is never discovered. That’s OK since you’ll most likely improve on your own. When the culprit is discovered, it’s typically one of the following:
- Norovirus, a Foodborne disease, often known as stomach flu, is responsible for more than half of all foodborne infections in the United States where the aetiology is known. Norovirus may make you ill not just by eating contaminated foods but also by touching doorknobs and other surfaces or coming into contact with a sick person. If someone in your home has it, you should clean up the kitchen. It usually takes 12 to 48 hours before you start feeling ill. Your symptoms may last anywhere from one to three days.
- Salmonella is the name of a bacterial group, is one of the causes of food poisoning. They thrive on raw or undercooked meat and eggs. Salmonella may also be contracted through unpasteurised milk or cheese. It may also be caused by certain fruits and vegetables, such as melons or sprouts. Symptoms appear within one to three days and may persist for up to a week.
- Clostridium perfringens are present when meals are cooked in quantity, such as in cafeterias, nursing homes, or catered events, which are bacteria that are more likely to show up. The bacterium is killed by cooking, but not the spores. As a result, food that has been allowed to warm may produce new germs. Beef, chicken, and gravy are all good sources. You may have cramps and diarrhoea but no other signs or symptoms. You get ill within 6-24 hours and typically recover within a few days.
- Campylobacter originates from raw poultry, unpasteurised milk, and sometimes, water. It may take 2–5 days for you to detect effects. However, you should feel better in 2-10 days. You won’t be able to give it to anybody else. However, if the infection is severe, you may have bloody diarrhoea.
More Serious Causes of Food Poisoning
Some germs are less likely to be one of the causes of food poisoning, but they may still make you extremely sick. They have the potential to be fatal.
They are as follows:
- E. coli. This is the name of a kind of bacterium found in animal intestines. Undercooked ground beef, unpasteurised milk, sprouts, and any food or drink that has come into touch with animal excrement or sewage may all cause this. Some strains are entirely safe. Others can make you extremely ill.
- Listeria is a rare bacteria that can thrive at cold temperatures, such as those found in the refrigerator. Smoked salmon, raw (non-pasteurized) cheeses, ice cream, pates, hot dogs, and deli meats all include it. Short-term gastroenteritis symptoms, including watery diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and occasionally fever, usually appear within 24 hours after ingestion. However, it may be considerably more dangerous in the elderly, pregnant, young or immunocompromised. The bacteria may enter the circulation and produce listeriosis, which affects the central nervous system. This typically occurs between 10 to 30 days of exposure. Listeria may produce uncommon symptoms such as weakness, disorientation, and a stiff neck, in addition to diarrhoea and vomiting. It’s also dangerous. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Consult your doctor if you suspect you have food poisoning.
- Mayo Clinic: “Food Poisoning," “Food Poisoning Symptoms," “Food Poisoning: Causes."
- UpToDate: “Patient education: Food poisoning (foodborne illness) (Beyond the Basics)."
- CDC: “Burden of Foodborne Illness: Findings," “Foodborne Germs and Illnesses."
- FDA: “Foodborne Illnesses: What You Need to Know."
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Foodborne Illness: What Consumers Need to Know," “Foodborne Illness Peaks in Summer — Why?" “Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety."
- Foodsafety.gov: “Salmonella," “Clostridium perfringens," “Norovirus (Norwalk Virus)," “Campylobacter," “E. coli," “Listeria."