Content of the material
- What is food poisoning?
- How long after eating something bad will I get sick?
- Symptoms of food poisoning
- What are the symptoms of food poisoning from fish?
- How does bacteria cause food poisoning?
- 6 main types of food poisoning bacteria and their symptoms
- Are carrots with black spots edible?
- Causes of food poisoning
- Types of infection
- Escherichia coli (E. coli)
- Living with food poisoning
- How to destroy food poisoning bacteria
- Does all corn pop?
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. The food could have germs that cause infection (like bacteria, viruses, parasites) or toxins created by germs. It can lead to gastrointestinal (digestive tract) symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
There are many germs and toxins that can cause food poisoning. Campylobacter, E. Coli, Listeria, and Salmonella are some common ones.
Depending on the cause of the food poisoning, you may need to be treated, so it’s a good idea to call your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve in 2-3 days.
How long after eating something bad will I get sick?
Food poisoning symptoms can begin as quickly as four hours or as long as 24 hours after eating contaminated food. People who eat the same contaminated food, say at a picnic or barbecue, will usually get sick about the same time.
Symptoms of food poisoning
Symptoms of food poisoning can begin hours or days after consuming contaminated food or drink. The timing depends in part on the cause of the food poisoning. It can also depend on the amount of food or drink you consumed. Symptoms may include:
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- weakness and fatigue
Food poisoning may affect just one person or a whole group of people who are exposed to the contaminated food or drink. It depends on how much of the germ or toxin each person consumed. It also depends on how sensitive they are to the germ or toxin.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning from fish?
There are two types of food poisoning you can get from eating fish. They are ciguatera poisoning and scombroid poisoning.
Ciguatera poisoning symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms can progress to headache, muscle aches, and itchy, tingly, or numbness of the skin. One early sign can be numbness of the lips, tongue, or area around the mouth. You may have a metallic taste or feel like your teeth are loose. You may notice a change in your ability to feel hot or cold temperatures. You may think something feels hot when it is actually cold.
Scombroid poisoning symptoms develop 20 to 30 minutes after you eat the affected fish. They include flushing (turning red) of the face, nausea, vomiting, hives, and abdominal pain. These symptoms are similar to other allergic reactions. Getting scombroid poisoning does not mean you are allergic to fish.
Vibrio vulnificus infection is a bacterial infection to warm, seawater fish. It’s found in shellfish (especially oysters), other seafood, or the ocean. You can get it by eating contaminated fish. You can get it from contact with a fish or the ocean (through an open cut). It is not common and not contagious. The symptoms are similar to those of general food poisoning: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. More serious symptoms include a high fever, chills, low blood pressure, redness, swelling, and blisters on your skin. If the bacteria enters an open cut, it can become a more serious infection. Once that happens, it can spread through your bloodstream and become life-threatening. Blood and stool tests lead to a diagnosis. Your doctor also may look at the blisters on your skin.
You can reduce your risk of exposure by not eating undercooked shellfish and other seafood. Wash kitchen utensils in hot, soapy water. Wear gloves when handling the fish if you have an open cut. Avoid ocean water until your cut or wound has healed.
Antibiotics are often used to treat the infection. In severe cases, you may need surgery or amputation where a cut or wound was infected with the bacteria.
How does bacteria cause food poisoning?
Viruses and bacteria that cause food poisoning are found on just about all of the food you eat. However, cooking usually helps to kill them off before the food lands on your plate. Food which is eaten raw or is undercooked is a major source of food poisoning because it has escaped the cooking process.
6 main types of food poisoning bacteria and their symptoms
Sometimes, food encounters faecal matter too. The most common cause of this is someone with dirty or unwashed hands preparing food. Water can also be contaminated, and the germs can find their way onto food, particularly if washed in water, like salad items.
|Botulism||blurred or double vision, muscle weakness, slurred speech, difficulty breathing|
|Campylobacter||diarrhoea, fever, severe pain|
|Clostridium perfringens||diarrhoea, nausea, pain|
|E. coli||diarrhoea, vomiting, inflammation|
|Listeria||fever, headache, meningitis, septicaemia|
|Norovirus||diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps|
|Salmonella||diarrhoea, fever, vomiting, stomach cramps|
Are carrots with black spots edible?
Food poisoning can occur when someone eats or drinks something that contains bacteria and parasites that leave viruses, chemicals or toxins. Each year, as many as 128,000 people are hospitalized and about 3,000 die from food poisoning. Food poisoning plays no favorites – it can happen to anyone, including infants.
Causes of food poisoning
Pro Tip There are some classic scenarios that we hear with food poisoning—so tell your doctor what happened! Some classic examples are: “I went to a picnic or restaurant and ate ___, then me and someone else got sick in the next few days. Or “I was hiking and drank from a stream.” —Dr. Kumar
Food poisoning is caused by germs (like bacteria, viruses, parasites) or toxins created by germs. Some common bacteria include Campylobacter, E. Coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. Foods can get contaminated at any point including when they are grown (like lettuce), processed, stored (including being left out too long), or during food preparation—in a restaurant, store, or your own kitchen.
Types of infection
Food contamination is usually caused by bacteria, but it can also sometimes be caused by viruses or parasites. Some of the main sources of contamination are described below.
In the UK, campylobacter bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning. The bacteria are usually found on raw or undercooked meat (particularly poultry), unpasteurised milk and untreated water.
The incubation period (the time between eating contaminated food and the start of symptoms) for food poisoning caused by campylobacter is usually between two and five days. The symptoms usually last less than a week.
Salmonella bacteria are often found in raw or undercooked meat, raw eggs, milk, and other dairy products.
The incubation period is usually between 12 and 72 hours. The symptoms usually last around four to seven days.
Listeria bacteria may be found in a range of chilled, “ready-to-eat” foods, including pre-packed sandwiches, cooked sliced meats and pâté, and soft cheeses (such as Brie or Camembert).
All of these foods should be eaten by their “use-by” dates. This is particularly important for pregnant women, because a listeria infection (known as listeriosis) in pregnancy can cause pregnancy and birth complications, and can result in miscarriage.
The incubation period can vary considerably, from a few days to several weeks. The symptoms will usually pass within three days.
Escherichia coli (E. coli)
Escherichia coli, often known as E. coli, are bacteria found in the digestive systems of many animals, including humans. Most strains are harmless but some can cause serious illness.
Most cases of E. coli food poisoning occur after eating undercooked beef (particularly mince, burgers and meatballs) or drinking unpasteurised milk.
The incubation period for food poisoning caused by E. coli is typically one to eight days. The symptoms usually last for a few days or weeks.
Shigella bacteria can contaminate any food that has been washed in contaminated water.
Symptoms typically develop within seven days of eating contaminated food and last for up to a week.
An infection caused by Shigella bacteria is known as bacillary dysentery or shigellosis. See the topic on dysentery for more information about it.
The virus that most commonly causes diarrhoea and vomiting is the norovirus. It’s easily spread from person to person, through contaminated food or water. Raw shellfish, particularly oysters, can also be a source of infection.
The incubation period typically lasts 24-48 hours and the symptoms usually pass in a couple of days.
In young children, the rotavirus is a common cause of infection from contaminated food. The symptoms usually develop within a week and pass in around five to seven days.
In the UK, food poisoning caused by parasites is rare. It’s much more common in the developing world.
Parasitic infections that can be spread in contaminated food include:
- giardiasis – an infection caused by a parasite called Giardia intestinalis
- cryptosporidiosis – an infection caused by a parasite called Cryptosporidium
- ameobiasis – a type of dysentery caused by a single-cell parasite (ameoba) called Entamoeba histolytica (this is very rare in the UK)
The symptoms of food poisoning caused by a parasite usually develop within 10 days of eating contaminated food, although sometimes it may be weeks before you feel unwell.
If left untreated, the symptoms can last a long time – sometimes several weeks or even a few months.
Living with food poisoning
Food poisoning is a condition that comes and goes. However, one person may be more likely to get food poisoning than another.
Children and the elderly are most likely to get food poisoning. You may also be at a higher risk if you:
- Have a chronic medical condition, such as kidney disease or diabetes.
- Are pregnant.
- Have recently traveled to areas outside the United States. You may have had greater exposure to germs that can cause food poisoning.
- Have a weakened immune system. This could be caused by drugs taken after an organ transplant, certain chemotherapy medicines, or infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
How to destroy food poisoning bacteria
By taking specific precautions when preparing, eating, and storing food, you can reduce the risk of illness and destroy food poisoning bacteria before it’s too late. Here’s what you need to do:
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food to prevent microbial transfer from your mitts to your grub. You should also give them a good wash after touching animals, including pets, the bin, blowing your nose, or going to the toilet. If you can’t wash them, at least sanitise.
Clean kitchen surfaces, especially worktops and chopping boards. Wash knives and other utensils in hot soapy water (or your dishwasher), and regularly launder your tea towels and dishcloths too.
Use separate chopping boards to prepare raw foods like meat and fish. This will help to avoid cross contamination with ready-to-eat foods. Raw meat can contain pathogenic bacteria that may be destroyed during the cooking process.
Follow the use-by dates. Don’t be tempted to risk it, especially with foods like raw meats, pre-prepared foods, and dairy that are susceptible to spoilage and contamination.
Cook food thoroughly, especially meat such as pork, poultry, sausages, burgers, and kebabs. This is essential to avoid food-borne illnesses. When cooked, the juices should run clear, the meat should be piping hot, and there should be no pink meat inside.
Does all corn pop?
Popcorn that you buy at the store or grow as popcorn for a garden is a special variety of corn. The commonly cultivated strain is Zea mays everta, which is a type of flint corn. Some wild or heritage strains of corn will also pop. The most common types of popcorn have white or yellow pearl-type kernels, although white, yellow, mauve, red, purple, and variegated colors are available in both pearl and rice shapes. Even the right strain of corn won’t pop unless its moisture content has a moisture content around 14 to 15%. Freshly harvested corn pops, but the resulting popcorn will be chewy and dense.
Cross-contamination is when bacteria are transferred from foods (usually raw foods) to other foods.
This can occur when one food touches or drips onto another food, or when bacteria on your hands, work surfaces, equipment or utensils are spread to food.
To prevent cross-contamination:
- always wash your hands after handling raw food
- store raw and ready-to-eat foods separately
- store raw meat in sealable containers at the bottom of your fridge so that it cannot drip onto other foods
- use a different chopping board for raw food and ready-to-eat food, or wash it thoroughly in between preparing different types of food
- clean knives and other utensils thoroughly after using them with raw food
- do not wash raw meat or poultry – any harmful bacteria will be killed by thorough cooking, and washing may splash harmful bacteria around the kitchen