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Food Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Many of us may not know this, but food-borne outbreaks are responsible for millions of Americans to fall sick every year. Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 48 million people get sick, 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die of food-borne sickness. 

In this blog post, we will list out common causes, symptoms and prevention of food-borne diseases that will help you learn and understand everything there is to know about food poisoning.

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Food Poisoning

What are the Causes of Food Poisoning?

From growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparing, contamination of food can happen at any point of production. Often the cause of cross-contamination happens with raw foods and salads due to the transfer of harmful organisms from one place to another. As these foods are not cooked, harmful organisms can cause food poisoning.

  1. Salmonella

While you may have heard of Salmonella, you may not be familiar with it. Outbreaks of Salmonella involve a wide variety of foods like raw or contaminated meat, poultry, milk, or egg yolks. It is usually introduced to foods when food is handled or processed at a processing plant. This bug can survive insufficient cooking. It spreads by an infected food handler, cutting or chopping surfaces and knives.

Onset of symptoms: 1 to 3 days

  1. E. coli

It is usually spread because of undercooked beef that is contaminated by germs and feces during slaughter. It is also associated mainly with fresh produce, nuts, water, unpasteurized milk, cookie dough, apple cider, alfalfa sprouts, and contaminated water.

Onset of symptoms: 1 to 8 days

  1. Rotavirus

Outbreaks of rotavirus in the United States have been linked to raw and ready-to-eat produce. It is usually spread by an infected food handler.

Onset of symptoms: 1 to 3 days

  1. Hepatitis A

One of the common causes of food poisoning is Hepatitis A, which is commonly associated with raw, ready-to-eat produce and shellfish from contaminated water. It can also be spread by an infected food handler.

Onset of symptoms: 28 days

    5. Listeria

Listeria infections are highly dangerous for pregnant women leading to stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriages. It is linked to foods like unpasteurized milk and cheeses, hot dogs, luncheon meats, and unwashed raw produce. It is also spread through contaminated soil and water.

Onset of symptoms: 9 to 48 hours 

What are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?

The food poisoning symptoms differ as per the source of contamination. The symptoms can range from mild effects and can escalate to life-threatening ones. Some of the symptoms of food poisoning are as follows:

1. Vomiting

2. Nausea

3. Fever

4. Abdominal pain

5. Cramps

6. Diarrhea

Signs and symptoms of food poisoning can begin a few hours after consuming contaminated food or even after a few weeks. Illness caused by food poisoning can last for a few hours and can continue for up to several days.

Severe symptoms of food poisoning include:

  1. Fever higher than 102°F.
  2. Diarrhea lasts for more than a couple of days that does not discontinue.
  3. Bloody diarrhea.
  4. Persisting diarrhea where the patient cannot keep liquids down leads to dehydration.
  5. Dehydration further causes symptoms like dry mouth and throat, difficulty standing up due to dizziness and inability to urinate.

If you experience any of the signs or symptoms, call your doctor or your healthcare provider and seek medical attention.

4 Steps To Prevent Food Poisoning

It is said that we must have a prevention plan before thinking of a cure. Rightly so, keep reading on to learn the different steps to prevent food poisoning. The American CPR Care Association provides several practical measures to avoid food poisoning.

1. Clean your hands: Wash your hands before preparing food and ensure your workstation is hygienic before and after preparing food. Germs can tend to survive for a longer time around the kitchen, including your utensils, countertops, cutting boards and your hands. 

2. Keep certain kinds of foods separate: Use separate cutting boards for eggs, poultry, meats, and seafood. Use separate plates for ready-to-eat foods. Store each food separately in the refrigerator. 

3. Cook food at the right temperature: Foods should not be overcooked or undercooked. Ensure that food is cooked when the internal temperature is high enough to kill harmful bacteria. You can also use a food thermometer.  

4. Refrigerate and freeze food properly: The ideal temperature at which food should be refrigerated is 40°F or below. Ensure to refrigerate food after 2 hours of cooking. Avoid keeping leftovers outside as they can be exposed to temperatures above 90°F. 


Many factors come into play when you get ill after eating contaminated food. It depends on your age, your health, the organism and the amount of exposure. High-risk groups like pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses, young children, infants, and the elderly need to take precautions to avoid food poisoning. Contact the American CPR Care Association immediately for details.


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