Understanding Food Poisoning


Food poisoning, also called food borne illness, is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites or their toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning. Infectious organisms or their toxins can contaminate food at any point of processing or production. Contamination can also occur at home if food is incorrectly handled or cooked.


Food poisoning symptoms vary with the source of contamination.

Most types of food poisoning cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms: Nausea, Vomiting, Watery or Bloody Diarrhea, Abdominal Pain, Cramps and Fever.

Signs and symptoms may start within hours after eating the contaminated food, or they may begin days or even weeks later. Sickness caused by food poisoning generally lasts from a few hours to several days.

Do You Know?

Food contamination can happen at any point of production: harvesting, growing, processing, storing, shipping or preparing. The cross-contamination transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another is often the cause.


To prevent food poisoning at home:

  • Wash your hands, utensils and food surfaces often.
  • Wash your hands well with warm, soapy water before and after handling or preparing food. Use hot, soapy water to wash utensils, cutting boards and other surfaces you use.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly within two hours of purchasing or preparing them. If the room temperature is above 90 F (32.2 C), refrigerate perishable foods within one hour.
  • Throw it out when in doubt. Food left at room temperature too long may contain bacteria or toxins that can’t be destroyed by cooking. Don’t taste food that you’re unsure about — just throw it out. Even if it looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat.

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