Food Poisoning - Causes - Prevention

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Food Poisoning - Causes - Prevention
Food Poisoning - Causes - Prevention

Video: Food Poisoning - Causes - Prevention

Video: Food Poisoning - Causes - Prevention
Video: Food Poisoning - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment 2023, May

Food Infections: Causes & Prevention

Microorganisms are found everywhere, whether on surfaces, in the ground or in raw foods. They are only partially welcome. Because some of the bacteria, viruses and parasites that are found in plant or animal foods can cause food poisoning or affect human health. Typical symptoms are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.


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  • How does a food infection develop?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • Which pathogens can cause food infections?
  • How can a food infection be prevented?
  • Food recall and warnings

How does a food infection develop?

Discomfort and discomfort after eating can have various causes. If certain pathogens such as bacteria, viruses or parasites are ingested through food, they can multiply in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and trigger typical symptoms of illness (e.g. nausea and vomiting). Many pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food do not necessarily have to cause symptoms themselves, but can excrete toxins that cause symptoms of intoxication. However, toxins can also get into the organism directly via the food consumed and lead to poisoning. Such poisons can arise in food through microbial spoilage (bacteria) or through mold. In addition, many foods naturally contain substances that are toxic to humans.are inedible raw (e.g. various mushrooms or beans).

Typical sources of risk are sensitive foods such as raw or undercooked meat and sausage products, raw fish, unpasteurized milk and dairy products (raw milk) and eggs. In addition, contaminated drinking water, fruits and vegetables, especially (leaf) salads are common causes of food infections and poisoning.

What are the symptoms?

Most food infections are accompanied by stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, which occur immediately or with a time delay (incubation period) after the consumption of contaminated food or drinks. The incubation period is the time that elapses between infection with a pathogen and the first signs of disease. It depends on the particular pathogen and can take a few hours to several days. If bacterial toxins are already present in the food and are not first formed by the microorganisms, the symptoms appear sooner after the food or drink has been consumed.

Typical symptoms of food infection or food poisoning include:

  • violent gastrointestinal noises,
  • Flatulence,
  • Diarrhea,
  • Nausea,
  • Vomit,
  • Fever,
  • Cardiovascular complaints,
  • Dizziness,
  • possibly hallucinations,
  • Inflammation of the liver in infections with hepatitis viruses.

Note In the case of people whose body's defenses are impaired or not fully developed (e.g. small children, pregnant women, the elderly or people with previous illnesses), food infections can in extreme cases be life-threatening.

Which pathogens can cause food infections?

To date, more than 250 pathogens are known that can cause foodborne diseases. Which includes:

trigger Symptoms and complications incubation period typical foods annotation
Campylobacter (bacterium)

Watery, slimy and bloody diarrhea, fever and muscle pain are possible.

Complications: e.g. Guillain-Barre syndrome

2-11 days Raw or insufficiently heated poultry meat, ready-to-eat dishes that have been contaminated after preparation or during storage (cross-contamination), raw milk, contaminated drinking water, contact with sick animals (especially young dogs and cats) most common cause of food infections, survives on damp surfaces for up to several weeks.
Salmonella (bacterium) Nausea, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, circulatory problems and abdominal cramps, dehydration 6-72 hours Raw or insufficiently heated foods of animal origin (e.g. eggs, poultry, meat from other animal species and raw milk), self-made products that contain raw eggs (e.g. tiramisu, mayonnaise, creams and ice cream), infection through cross-contamination, contaminated drinking water

Can multiply very quickly at temperatures between 10 to 47 degrees Celsius.

Hardly multiply when refrigerated, but are not killed by freezing. Heating to at least plus 70 degrees Celsius for at least 15 seconds kills salmonella.



Diarrhea, flu-like symptoms with headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, in severe cases meningitis (meningoencephalitis), sepsis. During pregnancy: premature birth or miscarriage. 3-70 days Raw animal foods, sliced and packaged sausages, unpasteurized raw milk

(products), cheese with a greasy rind (e.g. Brie, Roquefort), cold-smoked fish

Be careful during pregnancy!

Also multiply at low temperatures, for example in the refrigerator.


Escherichia coli (VTEC, bacterium)

Watery diarrhea (sometimes bloody), severe nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, possibly fever, possible complication: haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) (especially in small children) 1–3 (maximum 8) days Carry-over from the intestine (feces) to food of all kinds (fecal contamination), especially raw, not fully cooked beef, unpasteurized milk (products), but also green leafy vegetables, sprouts, spinach that were cultivated on fields fertilized with cattle manure and consumed raw will. Treatment with antibiotics is considered contraindicated because the bacteria produce more toxins when exposed to antibiotics.
Toxoplasmosis (parasite) mostly symptom-free, in severe cases: encephalitis. Initial infection in pregnant women can lead to malformations in the child or miscarriage.

10–23 days after consumption of cysts in raw meat, 5–20 days via oocytes (e.g. vegetables contaminated with cat feces)

raw meat (especially sheep and pork) Be careful during pregnancy!

Main transmission via cat feces, gardening (wear gloves).



gushing vomiting and diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, muscle pain (myalgia) and fatigue 15-48 hours directly from person to person or indirectly via contaminated surfaces, objects, food or water. Highly contagious! Are responsible for the majority of non-bacterial diarrheal diseases in children and adults (e.g. in schools, hospitals, retirement and nursing homes).

Table adapted from AGES and ÖGE: food poisoning

Other bacteria and viruses that can cause foodborne illnesses include:

  • Clostridium botulinum (botulism): The spores (permanent forms) of the pathogen are not killed if insufficiently heated and can germinate and form toxins even in an oxygen-free environment (e.g. in canned food). Inflated cans (bombs) are an indication of C. botulinum contamination. Under no circumstances should the contents be eaten, as the toxins they contain can cause botulism.
  • Clostridium difficile and perfringes,
  • Staphylococci,
  • Shigella (Shigellosis, Ruhr),
  • Yersinia (Yersiniosis),
  • Bacillus cereus,
  • Vibrio cholerae (Cholera),
  • Salmonella Typhi (Typhus) and Salmonella Paratyphi (Paratyphus),
  • Rota Virus as well
  • Hepatitis A and E virus.

How can a food infection be prevented?

Adhering to certain hygiene measures in your own household is particularly effective in preventing food-borne infections and poisoning. Food infections and food poisoning are particularly common when traveling and in summer. Therefore, certain rules of conduct should also be observed here.

Wash your hands thoroughly and ensure that they are clean

Germs are everywhere and can be spread to other foods through people and kitchen utensils. It is therefore important to pay attention to hygiene.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet.
  • Frequent hand washing when working in the kitchen (before and during the preparation of food, after contact with animals or waste).
  • Wash or peel raw fruits and vegetables before eating. Avoid pre-cut, packaged vegetables and fruits.
  • Regular and thorough cleaning of refrigerators and freezers. Detergents with high fat dissolving power are particularly effective.
  • Clean kitchen utensils, work surfaces, dishes and containers.
  • Keep pets away from food. Particular care should be taken in cats because of the risk of toxoplasmosis.
  • Do not store food openly in the refrigerator, always keep it closed or covered.

Pay attention to the temperature

Most germs in a food are killed by heating it to over 70 degrees Celsius for at least two minutes. In addition, germs can multiply very quickly at room temperature. At temperatures below five degrees Celsius, the growth of most germs is slowed down or stopped. Therefore:

  • Cool perishable food from shopping to home (observe the cold chain), use cool bags or boxes and bring goods home quickly after shopping and cool them again. Food should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
  • The optimal refrigerator temperature is between one and five degrees Celsius.
  • Cool cooked food quickly and store in a cool place.
  • Thaw frozen food and meals in closed containers in the refrigerator.
  • Heat food sufficiently, especially meat, poultry, fish, eggs or seafood.
  • No consumption of raw milk (products).
  • Thoroughly reheat cooked leftovers before eating (at least 65 degrees Celsius).

Correct procedure in the kitchen

Germs and mold can be transmitted between foods and enter the kitchen via animals. Therefore:

  • Separate raw from cooked food and use different kitchen utensils (e.g. wooden spoons, cutting boards, knives) and work surfaces.
  • Separate storage and processing of raw animal products (meat, fish, eggs) and vegetables and fruit. Always clean work surfaces and equipment thoroughly afterwards.
  • Store different types of fruit and vegetables separately.
  • Store blue cheese separately from other types of cheese.

Check food before consumption

Germs and molds can get into food through damaged packaging or incorrect / too long storage. Therefore:

  • Food packaging should be checked when shopping.
  • Check the shelf life of food at least once a week.
  • Test foods before consumption by smelling, examining, touching and tasting.
  • Dispose of spoiled and moldy food.

Further information on kitchen hygiene is available under Hygiene in the kitchen and on the AGES website under Hygiene in private households.

When traveling, especially in hot areas, the following should also be observed:

  • "Cook it, peel it, boil it or leave it!", Ie freshly prepared, well-cooked, fried or cooked dishes should be preferred. Peel or wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before consumption.
  • Be careful with water: do not drink tap water. Also be careful when brushing your teeth and with ice cubes.
  • If you are self-sufficient in apartments etc., ensure that the food is adequately refrigerated.

For more information, see Eating and Drinking Correctly When Traveling and Eating and Drinking in Heat.

Vaccination protection

A preventive vaccination is possible against cholera, typhoid, paratyphoid, hepatitis A, Rota and certain E.coli (ETEC) infections.

Food recall and warnings

Information on warnings and product recalls for food and children's toys, drugs and medical products are provided by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). You can subscribe to warnings free of charge via email or the app.

Further information is available on the AGES website under Product Warnings & Product Recalls.

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