Facts About Food Poisoning

May 21, 2001

Food poisoning is an acute infection of the gastrointestinal tract, characterized mainly by vomiting and diarrhea, caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated by bacteria or viruses.
In the United States, food poisoning is estimated to cause 76 million cases of illness every year, around 1,800 deaths, and a high financial impact in terms of medical costs and lost productivity.
Types of bacteria involved in food poisoning include Salmonella, Campylobacter, Staphylococci, Clostridium botulism and perfinges, Escherichia coli and others. These bacteria cause varied combinations of nausea, vomiting, gastroenteritis, diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. People at high risk for food poisoning include the very young and elderly, pregnant women and fetuses, people already ill, and those with weak immune systems.
In order to avoid contamination of food that can lead to these conditions, it is important to cook food adequately, keep it clean, keep cold food cold and hot food hot. When buying groceries, pick up cold foods last and put them in the refrigerator or freezer first. Never thaw meat by leaving it on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Marination should be done in the refrigerator.
Those who cook and otherwise handle food should be sure to wash and dry their hands well, and use paper towels or clean, regularly changed cloth towels. Wooden utensils or cutting boards should be avoided. Food served outside should not be left outside over two hours.

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