Common Causes of Food Poisoning

Common Mistakes Can Lead To Getting Sick

Even as advanced as we have become in how to keep water and food preparation more sanitary, there are common mistakes that are made every day that lead to food poisoning related sickness.

The worst part about food poisoning is that so much of it can be prevented.

We make common mistakes every day that can cause bacteria to form in our bodies that could lead to some very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous illnesses.

Over 30 million cases of food borne illness each year is a very sobering number, but if you take the time to practice some healthy habits in the kitchen and in restaurants, you can minimize your chances of exposure to these bacteria.

Dirty Dishes

Bacteria thrives in warm moist areas so leaving dishes overnight to soak in water is never a good idea

Keep dishes and kitchen area dry: Bacteria thrives in warm moist areas so leaving dishes overnight to soak in water is never a good idea. This makes it twice as difficult to remove all of the dangers by washing alone.

Keep dishes washed regularly and if leaving overnight, rinse all food off and do not leave to soak in water. Make sure all areas of the kitchen are clean and dry as well.

Sponge and Dish Rag Dangers

Wash and sterilize sponges between uses:

Sponges carry all kinds of bacteria and many people mistakenly will use and re-use a sponge for dishes and for wiping countertops without properly cleaning them. Throw the sponge in the dishwasher or steam it in the microwave for about a minute.

Hand Washing

Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands before eating or preparing food: Much of the bacteria that ends up in food gets there because of human contamination. Whether it is eating before really washing your hands or eating food that was prepared by someone who didn’t make sure their hands were clean, this ranks up at the top of causes for food poisoning.

Do Not Rely on Taste

Don’t check by taste to see if food has gone bad: It’s a misconception to think that bacteria has a taste or a smell, and even a small amount of food that is contaminated can make you very sick. For a guideline on food storage times in the refrigerator and when it should be tossed, check this food safety site.

Safe Preparation

Cut and prepare meat and vegetable products separately: If you use the same cutting board and utensils, any bacteria that is in the meat, especially uncooked poultry, it will spread to the other food being touched. Emeril Lagassi, well known chef, often jokingly says about chicken and poultry to “wash everything… wash the car it came in!”, and he’s not far off. Never use the same utensils directly after cutting and handling meat products.

Food Thawing

Don’t thaw food on the counter: I know a lot of people say that this was done for years with no ill effects, but that is not quite true. More often than not, these food borne illnesses can pass us right by and we chalk it up to a slight ‘flu’ bug or just not feeling right. It is known now that thawing food in this way will increase the bacteria growth and make the food itself a breeding ground. Most microwaves have a ‘defrost’ option which can be used–just be careful that it is watched so the food doesn’t start to cook. Thawing in the refrigerator overnight or in cold water (changed every half hour) is fine as well.

Undercooked Food

Avoid undercooking food: This is especially true of pork, poultry or fish, but is also a concern with red meat. It has often been said that red meat is safe at any temperature as long as the person is not at risk. That is not altogether true, as the E.Coli bacteria can be on meat even when it has passed inspection. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature. Pork products should be cooked to at least an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit while most other meat should be at 165 degrees. Preparation instructions for sashimi or raw fish for sushi dishes must be strictly adhered to such as freshness, cleanliness and proper handling.

Raw Dough

Don’t eat raw dough: Raw cookie dough has often been a temptation as we are making a batch of cookies–however the raw egg in the mixture is a breeding ground for many bacteria that can make you sick. Best to avoid the raw stuff and opt for ice creams and treats that mimic the ‘raw cookie dough’ flavor.

Proper Refrigeration

Refrigerate uneaten food within an hour: It has been believed that allowing food to cool before putting it in the refrigerator is the better way, but this is actually incorrect. Once the food is prepared, the bacteria begin to multiply the longer it sits. It is recommended that food be refrigerated within and hour or two after it has been cooked. Another thing to remember when storing meat that includes bones–be sure and remove the meat from the bones and keep them separate if not throwing the bones away.

Raw Marinades

Don’t re-use raw marinades: Food that is marinated overnight needs to have the marinade itself either disposed of immediately or if used again, brought to a boil first. Waste not, want not is a good practice,but there are some things that are just plain unhealthy to keep using.

Watch those Expiration Dates

Check expiration dates on all foods: Never ever think that food which is in a can or a box can’t go bad. On the contrary, botulism is caused by contaminated canned foods and it is one of the more dangerous food borne illnesses. Canned and boxed foods past their expiration date need to be thrown away. Also check when you are purchasing food at the grocery store that the expiration date is within a reasonable range (2-3 years)

Fruits and vegetables

Wash all fruits and vegetables: Although most foodborne illnesses come from meat or poultry products, fruits and vegetables are certainly not immune. Much of this food is stored in the same area and the bacteria can end up on the produce as well. Make sure all fruits and vegetables are carefully washed clean with water and patted dry with a paper towel.

These are just some tips to keep you and your family safe from all of the different types of food borne illness that exist. Eating should be a pleasurable experience, not something that has you running to the bathroom every ten minutes. Pay closer attention to the way food is handled, stored, and prepared and be aware of how easily these bacteria and bugs are spread. Eating is a big part of staying healthy so it is important that what we are putting into our bodies is as free of all these things as possible. Don’t let careless mistakes take your family down–be aware and be safe!

Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2012


Different Types and Causes of Food Poisoning

Food Poisoning: Types and Causes

Ugh – that horrible feeling when a stomach ‘bug’ hits you can be overwhelming. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and just plain miserable is something no one wants to go through and at the time it is happening, it can literally feel like you are going to die. At some point, it would almost be a welcome relief! Generally after a day or so, the symptoms subside and you go back to your normal routine. Just another flu, right?

Very likely – wrong.

Most stomach ailments do not come from the flu but rather one of the several food-borne illnesses that occur throughout the world daily.

Some cases are mild and merely cause discomfort for a day or so with running to the bathroom every fifteen minutes. Dehydration of course is always something to watch out for, but for the most part these cases clear up fairly quickly. There are others however such as botulism, that can be fatal at any age, and E.coli which is particularly harmful to senior citizens and very young children.

Many different things can cause bacteria to form in food that will be passed on to anyone who eats it.

Food borne illnesses are preventable, however many times people don’t even realize that the practices they are doing to store and handle food are putting them at risk.

Our kitchens are breeding grounds for bacteria to thrive if we are not conscientious of how we handle and prepare food as well as care of cooking utensils and keeping things clean.

Hand washing is of course essential as well as keeping leftover food properly stored in the refrigerator rather than left to sit out. These few simple things would go a long way in preventing food illnesses and infections.

Different Types and Causes of Food Poisoning

Food-borne illness, which is more often referred to as ‘food poisoning’ is caused by bacterial or parasitic contamination of food or food storage. There are several different bacteria that cause people to become sick if ingested including E. Coli, botulism, and salmonella to name just a few.

The two most reported types of food poisoning are Escherichia Coli and Staphylococcus and while most cases are certainly not fatal, it can be extremely dangerous if it doesn’t clear up within a day or so. These are only two among many that are found in cases of food-borne illnesses across the world, and it’s important to know what they are and what risk factors need to be taken into consideration.

Staphylococcus aureus:

This particular bacteria is most often transmitted by humans especially food workers that are in contact with contaminated dairy products. The risk for the contamination to spread is increased, especially if strict food-handling protocol is not enforced. The toxins produced from Staphylococcus aureus are not affected by heat and are resistant to purifying agents (such as salt). In other words, if the food has this bacteria multiplying and you consume it – you are very likely going to get sick regardless if it is cooked or not.

Sandwiches, especially those including sliced meats, are a prime target if not handled properly from the beginning. Symptoms include the usual gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea, but generally clears up within a couple of days.

Time of ingestion until time the illness attacks can be anywhere from thirty minutes to six hours.


This type of food poisoning is nowhere near as common as some, but makes up for it by being much more dangerous. This type of illness is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum and can be caused by an open wound or in the case of food, improper preserving methods and contaminated canned products. The bacteria starts in water and soil that has not been treated and the spores multiply quickly. Improper canning procedures as well as smoked or raw meats will often bring about a case of botulism if consumed. Infants are especially vulnerable to the bacteria, and are particularly at risk if they eat honey or corn syrup, where the bacteria can be easily formed.

Symptoms of Botulism range from nausea, respiratory difficulties, dry mouth, seeing double and in more serious cases, paralysis and even death. Infants will have weakness, constipation, poor feeding and difficulty crying.

With¬†this type of food poisoning, there is no question – get to the hospital as quickly as possible where you will be treated with an antitoxin and if in respiratory distress, admitted and monitored. Time is of the essence with botulism, so don’t waste time getting medical treatment if you suspect you have been infected.

Salmonella (Salmonella enterocolitis):


One of the most common types of bacterial borne food illnesses, salmonella is most often spread through the unsanitary preparation and storage of food.

Salmonella is most often found in cases of undercooked poultry such as chicken or turkey but it is certainly not limited to those foods.

Over 40,000 people are afflicted with salmonella poisoning each year and it occurs most often in younger people (under the age of twenty).

Symptoms of salmonella include the usual aches, pains, nausea and gastrointestinal distress, and in the elderly and infants can be potentially dangerous, as any type of illness that leaves a person dehydrated.


The shigella bacteria attacks the intestinal lining and causes sudden and intense abdominal cramping. Commonly known as one of the types of “traveler’s diarrhea”, it is often contracted when exposed to even a small amount of contaminated food or water. The symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of days to a week and dehydration is the biggest concern.

The three types of shigellosis are:

  • Shigella sonnei (most common in US)
  • Shigella flexneri
  • And the rarer (but potentially deadly) shigella dysenteriae type 1.

The last type is not commonly found in the US but has shown up in third world countries.

Campylobacter jejuni enteritis:

This is also another type of traveler’s diarrhea, and the symptoms of this particular food borne illness do not show up for several days. However, once it hits, it is the usual bouts of diarrhea and cramping that occur with many of the other types of food poisoning.

What can be concerning is blood in the stool which should be addressed with a medical professional. Otherwise it generally clears up on its own, although it is extremely uncomfortable. Be sure and hydrate with electrolyte based fluids regularly.

Diphyllobothrium latum (fish poisoning):

The tapeworm that affects thousands of people every year is found most frequently in undercooked fish or seafood.

Sashimi, which is fish that is eaten raw, must have extremely strict handling and preparation guidelines that are followed or otherwise, a trip to the sushi restaurant will likely lead to a bout of severe food poisoning.

This particular type is slow acting, with larvae growing in the intestinal tract for up to six weeks. Megaloblastic anemia and deficiencies of vitamin B12 are very often end results of this illness.

The scariest thing about this type is that there are rarely symptoms. One might feel occasionally weak or crampy, but may write it off as something else until more serious conditions occur. Medicines such as Praziquantal are used for treatment, usually given in one dose.

E.Coli enteritis:

This is the most common type of bacteria to cause traveler’s diarrhea. It is often in the intestinal tracts without causing any major issues, however there are some strains that cause food-borne illness to happen.

One of the most dangerous is E. coli O157:H7 which can be fatal, especially with infants and the elderly. It is often spread through human contamination (especially if hands are not washed during food preparation). This is also the type that has shown up in raw fruits and vegetables from mishandling. It causes fever, cramping and diarrhea that can include blood in the stool. Rehydration and small meals are recommended until the bacteria has passed.


This is by far one of the most deadly of the food borne illnesses. It is the third leading cause of infant meningitis and nearly 30% of the cases result in death. It is rarer than some of the others, but is certainly a concern with over 2,000 reported cases each year and 500 that end in death (numbers approximate).

Pregnant women are cautioned against eating soft cheeses which may contain the bacteria which causes this illness.

Symptoms range from high fever, a bit of nausea and possibly vomiting, but generally clears up in a week only to come back with a vengeance. Once it enters the brain, the symptoms of meningitis start to appear including stiff neck, altered mental state, problems keeping balance and seizures. It can be contracted through the bacteria contaminating food, water, and food utensils.

There are other types of food poisoning such as cholera that are not as widely spread as they once were due to better sanitation practices. However, even as advanced as we have become in how to keep water and food preparation more sanitary, there are common mistakes that are made every day that lead to any of the above mentioned illnesses. Read Common Causes of Food Poisoning

Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2012