An astonishing 76 million people become ill from food poisoning each year, and some have more than just diarrhea. Sometimes food poisoning causes serious health issues such as miscarriage, kidney failure – and even death. Most food poisoning is caused by bacteria – but have you ever wondered which bacteria are the most likely offenders? Here are the four most common types of bacteria that cause food poisoning.
Causes of Food Poisoning: E.Coli
The E.coli bacteria is responsible for more than 20,000 cases of food poisoning every year. In mild cases this rogue bacteria causes bloody diarrhea and crampy abdominal pain ‘” but older people, kids, and people with a weakened immune system can develop kidney failure. In rare cases, the intestines can become necrotic from the effects of this bacteria.
How do you get E.coli food poisoning? Most cases come from eating undercooked hamburger, but unpasteurized apple juice, orange juice, or milk can be a source of this bacteria too. Another food to watch out for is alfalfa sprouts. At least 37 outbreaks of food poisoning have been traced to fresh sprouts.
Bacteria That Cause Food Poisoning: Salmonella
Salmonella is another common cause of bacterial food poisoning. Symptoms of this type of food poisoning include diarrhea, nausea, fever, abdominal cramping, and headache. The symptoms usually clear up within a few days without antibiotic treatment, but it’s important to drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Sources of salmonella food poisoning include unpasteurized milk and undercooked meat of all types – including seafood and poultry. All meat and poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, for red meat, and 180 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry to reduce the risk of this unpleasant kind of food poisoning.
Causes of Food Poisoning: Campylobacter
Campylobacter is one of the most common and underappreciated causes of food poisoning in the United States. The most common symptom of campylobacter infection is diarrhea, but an infected person may have fever, vomiting, headache, abdominal cramping, and muscle pain too. Most cases are mild, but campylobacter food poisoning can lead to complications such as appendicitis, and, rarely, death.
To avoid this type of food poisoning, don’t drink unpasteurized milk and cook all poultry products to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Undercooked poultry is the most common cause of campylobacter although other undercooked meats can be a source too.
Food Poisoning Causes: Listeria
Listeria food poisoning may cause no symptoms in the average person. But pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems can have a more serious illness or even die from the infection. In pregnant women, listeria infection increases the risk of miscarriage.
Listeria is most common in deli meats, packaged hot dogs, fish, soft cheeses, and contaminated produce. Most doctors advise pregnant women not to eat deli meats unless they heat them first because of the risk of listeria food poisoning. Pregnant women should also avoid soft cheeses and wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
Bacterial Food Poisoning: The Bottom Line?
Practice safe food preparation, and avoid foods such as alfalfa sprouts that commonly cause food poisoning. Don’t become an unhappy victim of food-borne illness.
Belly Bytes website. “Food Safety Facts”
Woman’s Day. 7/11/00. Page 58. “Food Poisoning”
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.