How Food Poisoning Occurs

How Food Poisoning Occurs

Food poisoning occurs when we eat the food which has been contaminated with bacteria. Bacteria mostly grow in a warm temperature and a wet environment full of moisture (Chase 1995). Under these conditions, bacteria are ready to replicate, which is one bacterium divides into 2, then 4, etc. It is possible for one bacterium to become several million in eight hours and thousands of millions in twelve hours (Food Standards Agency, 2011). Some bacteria don’t replicate into masses but instead produce toxins, which are poisonous to our bodies. This is where the problem arises:  either the sheer numbers of bacteria or the toxins cause problems inside the body. Ingesting the bacteria comes from eating contaminated food. Usually, the bacteria and its toxins are imperceptible to taste and much too small to be seen by the naked eye.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

After ingesting the bacteria from foods, the symptoms don’t show up until the bacteria localize to the lining of the intestines and destroy our cells (Medic8, 2009). Since the bacteria locate to your intestines, the symptoms include intense flu-like symptoms such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting. The severity of one’s illness depends on many factors, such as the amount of bacteria ingested, the type of bacterial infection, and the consumer’s overall health. Therefore, people with weakened immune systems such as the youth and the elderly are at an increased risk for infection(U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2013).

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Bacteria Food Poisoning

There are an abundance of bacteria that cause illnesses and they exist virtually everywhere: on your skin, the soil, even the desk in front of you. Fortunately though they don’t make you ill unless they are allowed to grow and infect you.Of the thousands of choices of bacteria, I will focus on two of the most prevalent that infect the food you eat. The first one is Salmonella. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Salmonella accounts for approximately 30,000 confirmed food poisoning cases yearly, with 600 deaths nationwide. Salmonella is found among the intestinal tracts of humans and animals; it produces an intestinal infection with symptoms arising 12 to 24 hours after infection. Infection occurs from contamination of ready to eat foods, insufficient cooking or improper cooking. Usually beef, poultry, milk, and eggs are most often infected with salmonella. If eggs are contaminated, using raw eggs in sauces such as Caesar, or eating raw cookie dough can cause illness. This also includes any mayonnaise based sauces; they are often left in a warm environment and will likely cause illness. Avoid the potato salad, salad dressings, or egg salad sandwiches at the next barbeque or picnic day if the dishes have been sitting for awhile. No salmonella can grow below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and normal cooking will kill the bacteria (Brendan, Jacson R., Griffin M. Patricia, Cole Dana, Walsh A. Kelly, and Chai J.

Shua 2013). Another common bacteria to cause serious infection is Eshcerichia coli (E. coli).Food sources such as sausages, unpasteurized juices and milk, dried (non-cooked) salami, ground beef and various vegetables have been known to cause outbreaks. Most E.coli doesn’t harm humans and can be killed by proper heating. However, with more severe strains, bacteria can grow at refrigeration temperatures and so proper heating must be implemented (Texas A&M 2008).

How to Avoid Common Bacterial Infections

The FDA recommends following these 4 simple rules to avoid common bacterial infections associated with foods(I have an illustration toexplain this part).

  1. Clean: Always clean your hands and surfaces.If you come into contact with raw meat wash the area and your hands before moving on.
  2. Cook: Cook all food to the proper temperature; this will ensure if step one failed, you will kill the bacteria.
  3. Separate: Avoid cross-contamination by separating foods.
  4. Chill: Lastly chill or refrigerate foods. Remember bacteria can’t grow at cold temperatures so food should be refrigerated promptly after cooking (U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2010).The last step accounts for many illnesses in restaurants where food can sit for some time at warmer temperatures prior to arrival to your table. Therefore, always send the food back if it seems cold!


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Food poisoning is a general term for illness or health problems that arise due to ingesting contaminated food. It can be caused by viruses, chemicals or bacterial toxins. However, it is noted that bacteria cause the most common food poisonings. Food poisoning causes 76 million illnesses, and 5 thousand deaths annually. It is important to recognize that anyone who eats or drinks is at risk of encountering a food borne illness.


In this poster, I will introduce bacteria food poisoning, how it occurs, symptoms of it, and how to prevent it.

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