Bacterial Food Poisoning?

Go to the profile of Julie Grishaw, ACNP
Nov 25, 2019
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Bacterial food poisoning is a relatively common, yet preventable illness.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that more than 15% of Americans, or 48 million individuals, contract food poisoning each year.  Food poisoning is especially likely to occur during holiday times when individuals gather together over potluck meals and then consume leftovers.  According to the CDC, 128,000 individuals are hospitalized from foodborne illnesses each year and 3,000 die from sequelae of the disease.  Individuals at greatest risk of serious complications include the elderly, those under the age of 5, pregnant individuals, and immunocompromised patients.

Foods commonly associated with bacterial food poisoning include undercooked and raw meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, soft cheese, and sprouts/leafy greens. Food poisoning may occur from improper food storage, preparation, or inadequate cooking times.  Improper cleaning of utensils between use, such as chopping vegetables on the same board as raw meat can also lead to food poisoning.  Meats should be thoroughly cooked to the recommended temperatures to avoid food poisoning. Food poisoning may also occur if the prepared food is left unrefrigerated too long. Leftover food should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking, or 1 hour if the environmental temperature is very warm. Refrigerators should be kept below 40°F.

The timing of symptom onset may vary according to causative organism, as may the clinical findings.  Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, and malaise.  As noted, timing of clinical manifestations may vary according to the causative organism.  During the Thanksgiving holiday, there is often concern regarding food poisoning associated with under-cooked turkey.  This is most commonly caused by Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens.  A full discussion of all pathogens causing bacterial food poisoning is outside the scope of this post.  The diagnosis is confirmed by stool culture.  In patients with positive stool cultures, empiric antimicrobial therapy may be indicated. Fluid resuscitation is indicated for all dehydrated patients. 


Harrison's Manual of Medicine: Chapter 85: Infectious Diarrheas and Bacterial Food Poisoning

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Food Safety Tips

Go to the profile of Julie Grishaw, ACNP

Julie Grishaw, ACNP

Senior Editor, McGraw-Hill Education

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