Health & Diet

Food Poisoning: Symptoms And Treatment

61 - PoisonedPhoto by Jason Lander

Foodborne illness, better known as food poisoning, is illness which is caused by eating food that has been contaminated.

The most common causes of food poisoning are infectious organisms, such as parasites, viruses and bacteria, or their toxins.

At any point of processing or production, infectious organisms can contaminate food. If food isn’t correctly cooked or handled, contamination can also happen at home.

Food poisoning symptoms often include diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, and they can start within hours of eating food which is contaminated. Usually, food poisoning is mild and resolves without treatment. However, in some cases people have to go to the hospital.


Food poisoning can be caused by Salmonella, E. Coli, botulism, or norovirus. Salmonella is a type of bacteria found in the intestines of animals. This bacteria can live in animal products, such as eggs or meat. However, if the food is cooked at high temperature, all Salmonella should be killed. Escherichia Coli is a type of bacteria which can be found in the intestines of all animals and humans.


The bacteria can contaminate meat while it is processed. In addition, it can also seep into foods which are not safely prepared. Botulism is serious but rare illness which is caused by bacteria that grow in foods that have been improperly preserved or canned. Norovirus is a virus which is contagious and responsible for at least half of all food poisoning cases. Servers or cooks who don’t wash their hand before touching food can spread this virus.


Usually, contamination happens when drinks or foods come in contact with bacteria or viruses. Common sources of illness are foods which are eaten raw, since they don’t go through the cooking process. Pathogens on the food are usually killed by heat from cooking.

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Eggs, meat, and dairy products are sometimes contaminated, due to the crowded conditions in many animal-processing facilities. However, a lot of the contaminants are destroyed when the products are pasteurized or cooked. But, in rare cases, the viruses and bacteria are able to survive. In countries where water treatment is not well managed, water can also be contaminated with organisms which cause illness.


The source of contamination is often crucial for food poisoning symptoms. However, a lot of types of food poisoning have one or even more symptoms, such as watery diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and cramps, fever or nausea. After a person eats food which is contaminated, symptoms can start within hours or they can begin days or even weeks later. Usually, sickness caused by food poisoning lasts from several hours to a few days.


Food poisoning often resolves within a few days. However, some cases of food poisoning ca cause severe symptoms and a medical treatment may be required. When symptoms are prolonged, medical treatment can also be necessary. Based on your symptoms, your doctor may be able to diagnose the type of food poisoning.

A stool sample can identify the cause of the food poisoning, if your physician cannot reach a diagnosis. The Treatment is usually designed to rehydrate you after you lose fluids from vomiting and diarrhea. In case your food poisoning is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.


In order to prevent food poisoning at home you should throw it out when in doubt, defrost food safely, refrigerate or freeze perishable food promptly, cook ground beef to 160 F, cook foods to a safe temperature, keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods, and wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often.



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