All You Need to Know About Food Poisoning

All You Need to Know About Food Poisoning

Because so many foods can cause food poisoning, there’s no way to tell precisely which food makes you sick. However, some types of food have been shown to cause food poisoning more frequently than others. 

Food poisoning, or food-borne illness, occurs when you eat contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

These symptoms usually manifest within 12 hours of eating the contaminated food but can take 36 hours to show up in some people. Fortunately, in most cases, these unpleasant symptoms pass in one to two days without causing further complications.

Food Poisoning

What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is caused by harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

As these microorganisms replicate in food, they cause foodborne illness symptoms. In rare cases, food poisoning can also result from harmful substances in the food itself (i.e., toxins). 

Microorganisms can be introduced to foods at any point during production or preparation and they thrive at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (4-60 degrees Celsius). 

Food poisoning symptoms

You may experience any or all of these symptoms after eating food that contains harmful bacteria: abdominal cramps, diarrhea, headache, fever, and weakness. 

Other signs and symptoms can include muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. Most people get better within one to three days without treatment; however severe infections can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death.

 Children younger than 5 years old are at a higher risk for complications from food poisoning because their immune systems are still developing.

Older adults and those with weakened immune systems are also more likely to have a severe infection. 

Your doctor will likely ask about your medical history and will perform a physical exam; they may test your stool samples for organisms that cause food poisoning.

How long does food poisoning last?

For most food poisoning, you’ll begin to feel better within a day or two. In fact, it’s possible for some symptoms to improve after just 12 hours. 

However, in cases of severe food poisoning, it can take a week or more for symptoms to subside and in rare cases, serious complications can lead to long-term issues like kidney failure. 

Unfortunately, for some types of food poisoning such as botulism, the effects are irreversible and long-lasting; even with treatment from a doctor. 

Causes of food poisoning

It’s important to understand how food poisoning is caused so you can be sure to avoid it. 

Contamination: Most types of food poisoning are due to contamination with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. 

For example, salmonella is a type of bacteria that often gets into animal products like chicken and eggs.

It’s also possible for some types of food poisoning to be caused by poisonous plants (such as wild mushrooms) or chemical agents (such as pesticides).

If you’re going to eat something you found growing in nature, make sure it comes from a trustworthy source first!

Improper storage: One common cause of food poisoning is improper storage and/or preparation at home.

Common causes of food poisoning will typically include a few of the following symptoms:

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • mild fever
  • weakness
  • headache

Warning Signs of Food Poisoning

While every person’s body responds differently to bacterial contamination, there are some general warning signs of food poisoning. 

If you experience any of these symptoms within hours or days after eating a meal especially if it includes a particular type of food you might have food poisoning. 

Some types of infections can lead to more serious illnesses (such as salmonella) and require immediate medical attention. 

Call your doctor if you develop: Watery diarrhea: More than three times in one day, or more than eight times in 24 hours.

Food poisoning treatments

The most common way to treat food poisoning is to follow a bland diet and avoid eating solid foods until you've fully recovered. 

Some people, especially young children, and older adults may need to be hospitalized in order to receive intravenous fluids or antibiotics. 

If you experience symptoms of food poisoning during pregnancy or are pregnant and have food poisoning, consult your doctor immediately. 

Symptoms of food poisoning may also be mistaken for other conditions or diseases, such as influenza (the flu), parasites, or viral gastroenteritis, and can lead to serious complications if not properly treated. 

The best thing you can do is seek out medical attention when appropriate.

What to eat and drink when you have food poisoning

Eat small amounts of foods that are easy to digest and don’t require much energy from your stomach or intestines to break down. 

Include foods with high water content, such as liquids and broth-based soups. Water is a good choice, but caffeine should be avoided. 

Bananas can be a good source of both carbohydrates and fluids (the sugar will help replenish your body’s glucose stores). 

Plain white rice, cooked pasta, and toast will also help keep you hydrated. Since you’ll be in close proximity to a bathroom for several hours which may have unintended consequences it might be best to avoid all other foods while you recover from food poisoning.

How food poisoning is diagnosed

There is no one test for food poisoning, as each strain of bacteria is unique. A positive diagnosis relies on a blood or stool sample from an infected person and then testing to identify antibodies. 

Symptoms are often confused with other forms of illness like gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines characterized by diarrhea and abdominal pain. 

It’s hard to diagnose these conditions in isolation because both have similar symptoms, so it’s important to seek medical care if you experience any gastrointestinal issues after eating potentially contaminated food.

Risk factors for food poisoning

Eating meat, eggs, and dairy products that are not cooked, ice cream or cookie batter scooped from bowls with a finger or spoon, and raw fruits and vegetables are grown in contaminated soil.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are approximately 76 million cases of food poisoning in America each year and many go unreported. 

To avoid foodborne illness, it’s important to be aware of risk factors and practices you can use to keep your family safe. The following foods may have ingredients considered high-risk. 

To learn more about foods with such ingredients and tips on how to prepare them safely read on.

How to prevent food poisoning and food safety

Before you go grocery shopping, review your meal plan to make sure you have plenty of fruits and vegetables. 

According to some studies, they are not only healthier than processed food but also less likely to carry harmful bacteria. 

Make sure everything you eat comes from a reputable source, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if something doesn’t look or smell right. 

Lastly, clean any surface that may have come into contact with raw meat before preparing other foods.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends washing cutting boards, dishes, and utensils (especially hands) with hot soapy water after each use.

Below are the 10 foods most likely to cause food poisoning

1) Eggs

Eggs are often regarded as a staple ingredient in many kitchens and an essential part of breakfasts. Unfortunately, they can also be one of the most common causes of food poisoning, particularly Salmonella infection. 

The problem lies with improper handling during preparation and storage. To reduce your risk of getting sick from eggs, it’s important to make sure they’re refrigerated at all times once you bring them home from your grocery store. 

Don't eat any egg dishes that contain raw egg whites or yolks. Even if you cook them properly, they can still contain enough Salmonella to make you sick.

2) Poultry

While properly cooked poultry is one of few food items that’s considered safe to eat after reaching room temperature, there are still plenty of risks to eating it. 

When cooked foods are allowed to sit out at room temperature for too long, it allows harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria to grow. The most common symptoms of salmonella and listeria include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. 

Fortunately, food poisoning caused by these types of bacteria usually doesn’t last longer than a few days. 

3) Beef

It’s no surprise beef causes food poisoning, as it has been a common source of infection for ages. 

In fact, an outbreak in Japan infected more than 3,000 people in 2011 and sickened thousands more between 2004 and 2012. While red meat contains plenty of iron (which your body needs), it can also harbor bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. 

Therefore, it is important to always cook your beef thoroughly before consumption or refrain from eating under-cooked ground beef altogether. 

4) Fish

Raw or under-cooked fish contains bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, which can trigger food poisoning. Severe symptoms, like bloody diarrhea and vomiting, require hospitalization. 

People with weakened immune systems are at increased risk for contracting foodborne illnesses from certain types of fish. Cooking fish thoroughly before eating is essential to prevent illness. 

To ensure your fish is safe to eat, buy fresh fish, thoroughly wash it and use a thermometer to ensure it has reached a high enough temperature to kill any harmful bacteria (145 degrees Fahrenheit).

5) Soups

Soups and broths often contain listeria, a bacteria that can cause miscarriages. Soups are also typically eaten without thorough cooking, so they can easily be contaminated by dangerous bacteria.

To stay safe while enjoying a soup or broth, be sure to cook it until all of its ingredients are thoroughly cooked, not just warmed. 

It’s also important to serve it immediately never let the soup sit out at room temperature for more than an hour after you make it. 

6) Spices

Most of us don’t think twice about adding a pinch of cinnamon to a batch of cookies, but it turns out our taste for sweet spices may be responsible for some cases of food poisoning. 

Many spices originate in tropical areas and are sometimes sprayed with toxic chemicals to prevent spoilage. 

As a result, it’s not uncommon for contaminated shipments to make their way into grocery stores and onto your plate. 

7) Dairy Products

If milk is left unrefrigerated for too long, it can grow harmful bacteria. So, when you're storing dairy products in your refrigerator, make sure to check their expiration dates! If they’re old, throw them out.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends throwing away milk within two days of its sell-by date even if it looks and smells fine.

8) Vegetables

The most common cause of food poisoning is improperly cooked vegetables. For example, undercooked spinach or lettuce can contain E. coli and make you extremely sick. 

When preparing any type of vegetable, be sure to cook it thoroughly until all parts are soft and there’s no more color. 

Vegetables are some of our healthiest foods, so take your time cooking them! 

9) Salads

Who doesn’t love a good salad? 

Salads are incredibly popular, but if you eat prepackaged salads or you don’t wash your lettuce thoroughly, you may be in for a nasty surprise.

 Lettuce from grocery stores has been known to have E. coli and Salmonella on it. Prepackaged lettuce is even worse. 

To avoid contracting food poisoning from a salad, make sure to wash all produce before using it, especially leafy greens.

 If you like to buy pre-made salads or bagged lettuce at grocery stores, stick with brands you trust and steer clear of anything being sold next to meat products!

10) Condiments

Condiments, in general, are fermented foods, which means they were once alive. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not regulate condiments as stringently as it does other food products, so you have to beware when eating out. 

However, most restaurants follow proper sanitation procedures and you’re unlikely to get sick from restaurant-prepared foods. 

If you make your own food or condiments frequently you might want to make your own ketchup and mayonnaise since these have high-risk levels due to improper sterilization during the fermentation or processing.


Experts are still unsure what causes food poisoning, but it is known to be caused by bacterial contamination or toxins. 

Experts recommend consuming foods in their freshest state and never eating spoiled food. If food looks slimy, smells off, or tastes strange don’t eat it! 

The bacteria in your body have a hard time fighting off foreign toxic materials, so try to avoid swallowing these things as much as possible.


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