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Food poisoning, some common types of food poisoning bacteria

Salmonella & Campylobacter: common bacteria, widespread in nature; living and growing in intestinal tracts of humans and animals

Examples of foods involved: poultry, red meat, eggs and dairy products.

Transmission: eating contaminated food, or contact with infected persons or carriers of the infection. Also transmitted by insects, rodents and pets.

Symptoms: severe headache, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Severe infections can cause a high fever, and even death in infants and elderly people.

Onset: usually within 12-36 hours.

Duration: 2-7 days.

Prevention: the bacteria are destroyed by heating food to 140F for ten minutes, or to 155F for one minute.

Perfringens poisoning: Clostridium perfringens - spore forming bacteria that grow in the absence of oxygen. Temperatures reached in thorough cooking of most foods are sufficient to destroy vegetative cells, but heat resistant spores can survive.

Examples of foods involved: cooked meat and poultry, stews, soups, gravies left for several hours at between 60F-125F, then not reheated thoroughly.

Transmission: eating food contaminated with large numbers of the bacteria.

Symptoms: diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, and flatulence.

Onset: usually within 8-20 hours.

Duration: may persist for 24 hours.

Prevention: cool food rapidly and refrigerate promptly at 40F or below, or hold over 140F to prevent growth of surviving bacteria in cooked meats, gravies, and meat casseroles to be eaten later.

Reheat leftover food to 165F.

Staphylococcal poisoning: Staphylococcus aureus - bacteria growing in food produce a toxin that is extremely resistant to heat.

Examples of foods involved: custards, egg salad, potato salad, chicken salad, macaroni cheese, ham, salami, cooked poultry and mayonnaise.

Transmission: eating food containing the toxin. Food handlers can carry the bacteria in infected cuts and wounds.

Symptoms: vomiting, diarrhoea, prostration, abdominal cramps, retching, weakness. Onset usually sudden.

Onset: usually within 2-8 hours.

Duration: 1-2 days.

Prevention: growth of bacteria that produce toxin is stopped by keeping hot foods above 140F and cold foods at or below 40F. Chill food rapidly, in small quantities.

Once the toxin is formed, it isn"t easily destroyed by heat.

Botulism: Clostrididium botulinum - spore forming organisms that grow and produce toxin in the absence of oxygen, such as in a sealed container or below the surface of food.

Examples of foods involved: improperly-canned low-acid food (vegetables, fish, meat, poultry), smoked fish, and improperly handled low acid cooked foods.

Transmission: eating food containing the toxin.

Symptoms: headache, double vision, inability to swallow, speech difficulty, and progressive respiratory paralysis. Fatality rate is about 20%.

Onset: usually 12-36 hours or longer.

Duration: recovery is prolonged.

Prevention: follow reliable instructions for time and temperature for home canning low-acid vegetables, meat, fish and poultry. Bacterial spores in these foods are destroyed only by high temperatures obtained in the pressure canner. Refrigerate cooked low-acid foods promptly.

Toxin is destroyed by boiling for 10 minutes or heating in the oven to 185F.

Listeriosis: listeria monocytogenes - bacteria widespread in nature that can live in soil as well as intestinal tracts of humans and animals.

Examples of foods involved: raw milk, unripened and other soft cheese, undercooked meat and poultry.

Transmission: eating food contaminated with the bacteria.

Symptoms: headache, fever, and nausea. Can lead to meningitis. Can result in miscarriage or stillbirth. Pregnant woman, infants, and persons with low resistance to infections (such as cancer patients) are most susceptible. Can result in death unless there is antibiotic therapy.

Onset: usually within 24 hours, but can occur up to 12 days after ingestion.

Duration: 2-7 days.

Prevention: cook foods of animal origin thoroughly. Buy pasteurised milk. Prevent recontamination of cooked foods by cleaning hands, surfaces, and equipment that come into contact with raw animal foods. Don"t use animal manure or sewage sludge in your vegetable garden.

Vibriosis: vibrio parahaemolyticus - bacteria common in seawater. Other vibrio species found in seawater (including vibrio cholera) also cause food-borne disease.

Examples of foods involved: raw seafood such as oysters, shrimp, crabs and clams.

Transmission: eating seafood contaminated with large numbers of bacteria.

Symptoms: diarrhoea, cramps, weakness, nausea, chills and headache.

Onset: 3-76 hours (an average of 18 hours).

Duration: 1-8 days.

Prevention: keep raw and cooked seafood refrigerated. Cook seafood thoroughly. Prevent cross-contamination between raw and cooked seafood. See 'Food Poisoning'

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