Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
   
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

food poisoning





Disease resulting from ingestion of unwholesome food, usually resulting in abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and general malaise. While a number of virus, contaminant, irritant, and allergic factors may play a part in some cases, three specific types are common: those due to staphylococcus, clostridium, and salmonella bacteria. Inadequate cooking, allowing cooked food to stand for long periods in warm conditions and contamination of cooked food with bacteria from humans, or uncooked food are usual causes. Staphylococci may be introduced from a boil or from the nose of a food handler; they produce a toxin if allowed to grow in cooked food. Sudden vomiting and abdominal pain occur 2–6 hours after eating. Clostridium poisoning causes colic and diarrhea, 10–12 hours after ingestion of contaminated meat. Salmonella enteritis causes colic, diarrhea, vomiting, and often fever, starting 12–24 hours after eating; poultry and human carriers are the usual sources. Botulism is an often fatal form of food poisoning. In general, food poisoning is mild and self-limited and symptomatic measures only are needed; antibiotics rarely help.


Related category

   • HEALTH AND DISEASE