Food poisoning is a foodborne illness caused by consumption of contaminated food and drinks. It is an acute infection of the digestive tract and not usually serious.

How you get food poisoning

When your food is:

  • Not cooked or reheated thoroughly
  • Not stored correctly – for example, it’s not been frozen
  • Handled by someone who’s ill and has not washed their hands
  • Eaten after its “use by” date

However any type of food can cause food poisoning such as allergies to certain type of food.

Causal Agents

There are two types of contaminants in the food responsible for causing food poisoning: toxin and organisms. Infectious microbes or their toxins can contaminate food at any point of processing or production.

  • Salmonella: It can be found in contaminated meat, milk, or eggs. Organisms can be spread by knives, cutting surfaces or an infected food handler.
  • Shigella and Vibrio can be found in seafood.
  • Bacillus cereus: A variety of foods, particularly reheated fried rice.
  • Hepatitis A: Raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated waters, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods, and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler.
  • Staphylococcus aureus: It is commonly found on the skin and can contaminate food if the infected food handler don’t wash their hands before touching it.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Symptoms of food poisoning depend on the toxin or organisms contaminated the food. Symptoms may occur within an hour of consuming toxin contaminated food or after days.

The common symptoms of food poisoning are;

  • abdominal cramps,
  • diarrhea,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • fever, etc.

The illness usually lasts for up to seven days but some of the symptoms may longer for weeks.

When to See a Doctor for Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is rarely serious and usually gets better within a week. The most important thing is to drink lots of fluids, such as water or ORS (oral rehydration salts), to avoid dehydration.

It is recommended that person must consult the doctor as soon as possible:

  • dehydration, problem in drinking liquids,
  • reduce excretion of urine,
  • high fever,
  • diarrhea persisting more a couple of days

How to prevent food poisoning

  • It’s especially important to keep raw meat away from ready to eat food.
  • The safest way to kill all the microbes is by cooking thoroughly.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds before handling food.
  • Wear gloves while preparing food if you have wounds or infections on your hands or wrists.
  • Do not prepare food if you are ill with diarrhea or vomiting.


Reporting an illness to local health department can help public health officials to identify a foodborne disease outbreak and keep others from getting sick.

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