Foodborne illness, more commonly referred to as food poisoning, is the result of eating contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
If you have food poisoning, chances are it won’t go undetected. Symptoms can vary depending on the source of the infection. The length of time it takes for symptoms to appear also depends on the source of the infection, but it can range from as little as 1 hour to as long as 28 days. Common cases of food poisoning will typically include at least three of the following symptoms:
Abdominal cramps, diarrhea , vomiting, loss of appetite, mild feaver, weakness, nausea and headache.
Symptoms of potentially life-threatening food poisoning include:
diarrhea persisting for more than three days
a fever higher than 101.5°F
difficulty seeing or speaking
symptoms of severe dehydration, which may includ, dry mouth, passing little to no urine, and difficulty keeping fluids down
Most food poisoning can be traced to one of the following three major causes:
Bacteria is by far the most prevalent cause of food poisoning. When thinking of dangerous bacteria, names like e-coli, listeria, and Salmonella come to mind for good reason. Salmonella is by far the biggest culprit of serious food poisoning cases in the United States. According to the CDC, an estimated 1,000,000 cases of food poisoning, including nearly 20,000 hospitalizations, can be traced to salmonella infection annually. Campylo batum and C. botulinum (botolism) are two lesser-known and potentially lethal bacteria that can lurk in our food.
Food poisoning caused by parasites is not as common as food poisoning caused by bacteria, but parasites spread through food are still very dangerous. Toxoplasma is the parasite seen most often in cases of food poisoning. It’s typically found in cat litter boxes. Parasites can live in your digestive tract undetected for years. However, people with weakened and pregnant woman risk serious side effects if parasites take up residence in their intestines.
Food poisoning can also be caused by a virus. The norovirus, also known as the Norwalk virus, causes over 19 million cases of food poisoning each year. In rare cases, it can be fatal. Sapovirus, rotavirus and astrovirus bring on similar symptoms, but they’re less common. Hepatities virus is a serious condition that can be transmitted through food.
The best way to prevent food poisoning is to handle your food safely and to avoid any food that may be unsafe.
Some foods are more likely to cause food poisoning because of the way they’re produced and prepared. Meat, poultry, eggs, and shellfish may harbor infectious agents that are killed during cooking. If these foods are eaten in their raw form, not cooked properly, or if hands and surfaces are not cleaned after contact, food poisoning can occur.
Other foods that are likely to cause food poisoning include:
Sushi and other food products that are served raw or undercooked
deli meats and hot dogs that are not heated or cooked
ground beef, which may contain meat from several animals