What causes food poisoning? | Western Cape Government

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What causes food poisoning?

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is a very common condition where a person gets ill because of eating contaminated food, which contains bacteria, viruses or parasites. 

A man has a stomach ache after eating food

What causes food poisoning?

  • E. coli - often spread through undercooked beef mince.
  • Salmonella - usually spread via undercooked poultry products or through unpasteurised milk.
  • Listeria - spread via processed meats and soft cheeses.
  • Campylobacter - contaminated meat and poultry.
  • Norovirus - usually spread from raw shellfish and between people.

Food poisoning symptoms include: 

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • diarrhoea,
  • abdominal cramping and pain,
  • fever,
  • loss of appetite,
  • lethargy and a general feeling of being unwell,
  • muscle aches, and 
  • chills.

Food poisoning prevention tipsCropped picture of an unrecognizable woman washing her hands in the kitchen sink. She's about to prepare food.

  • Wash hands before and after food preparation. Use clean work surfaces and utensils.
  • Ensure that the food is properly cooked, particularly meat and seafood, as heat kills bacteria.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. This includes storing different foods separately.
  • Keep perishable foods in the fridge or freezer, making sure to put them there promptly. Not all bacteria are killed by cooking. If meat is left at room temperature for too long, bacteria multiplies rapidly. 
  • Use food by its expiry date. In the case of leftovers, keep to the rule: “When in doubt, throw them out.” Also, discard food left unrefrigerated for too long.
The content on this page was last updated on 18 June 2021