Food poisoning

Other names: Food-borne illness


Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is illness caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms — including bacteria, viruses, and parasites — or their toxins are the most common causes of Food poisoning. Contamination can occur at any point during the processing or production of food.


Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, and fever. These symptoms can start within hours of consuming contaminated food and typically last from a few hours to several days.


Seek medical attention if you experience frequent vomiting, bloody vomit or stools, diarrhea for more than three days, severe abdominal cramping, high fever, signs of dehydration, or neurological symptoms.


Contamination of food can happen at any stage of production. Common causes include cross-contamination and consumption of raw, ready-to-eat foods. Various bacterial, viral, or parasitic agents can lead to food poisoning.


High-risk groups for food poisoning include older adults, pregnant women, infants and young children, and individuals with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems.


Dehydration is a common complication of food poisoning. Certain pathogens like Listeria and E. coli can lead to severe complications such as neurological damage and kidney failure.


When seeking medical help for suspected food poisoning, be prepared to discuss symptoms, recent food consumption, travel history, and any potential exposure to contaminated sources.


Diagnosis of food poisoning involves a detailed history, physical examination for signs of dehydration, and sometimes diagnostic tests like blood tests or stool cultures.


Treatment for food poisoning focuses on replacing lost fluids and electrolytes. Antibiotics may be prescribed in severe cases caused by certain bacteria. Lifestyle measures include hand hygiene and safe food handling practices.


To prevent food poisoning at home, practice good hygiene habits like washing hands frequently, cooking foods to safe temperatures, refrigerating perishable items promptly, and avoiding risky foods especially for high-risk individuals.


  1. What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is an illness caused by consuming contaminated food.

  1. What are common symptoms of food poisoning?

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, and fever are common symptoms.

  1. When should you seek medical attention for food poisoning?

Seek medical help if you experience severe symptoms like bloody stools or vomit, dehydration signs, high fever or neurological symptoms.

  1. How does contamination occur in food production?

Contamination can happen at any stage during growing, processing, storing or preparing food.

  1. Who are considered high-risk groups for developing complications from food poisoning?

High-risk groups include older adults, pregnant women, young children, and individuals with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems.

  1. What is the most common serious complication of food poisoning?

Dehydration is the most common serious complication that may require hospitalization in severe cases.

  1. How is food poisoning diagnosed?

Diagnosis involves a detailed history assessment along with physical examination and sometimes diagnostic tests like blood work or stool cultures.

  1. What treatments are available for food poisoning?

Treatment includes fluid replacement therapy and in some cases antibiotics for severe bacterial infections.

  1. What lifestyle practices can help prevent food poisoning at home?

Practicing good hygiene habits like handwashing and safe food handling techniques can help prevent foodborne illnesses.

  1. Which foods should high-risk individuals avoid to reduce the risk of food poisoning?

High-risk individuals should avoid raw or undercooked meats/seafood/eggs/dairy products and unpasteurized items to reduce the risk of contamination.