Signs and Symptoms - Causes
The typical signs of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, head or muscle aches, and fever. Symptoms usually appear within 12 - 72 hours of eating contaminated food, but may also occur 30 minutes - 4 weeks later. Specific bacteria may cause these signs and symptoms:
Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum, or botulism): weakness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, double vision, paralyzed eye nerves, difficulty speaking and swallowing, paralysis that spreads downward, respiratory failure, death
Salmonella spp., Shigella spp., and Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni): fever, chills, bloody diarrhea
Escherichia coli (E. coli): hemorrhagic colitis (diarrhea with very little stool and large amounts of blood). E. coli symptoms may appear as many as 3 days after eating contaminated food.
Mushroom poisoning can affect the liver, the neurological system (brain), or the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include stomach upset, delirium (confusion), vision difficulties, heart muscle problems, kidney failure, and death of liver tissue. It may also cause death if it is not treated right away.
Fish poisoning causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dizziness, and headache. Specific types of fish poisoning can cause other signs and symptoms, such as:
Ciguatera: numbness or tingling around the mouth, feeling of loose teeth, impaired touch sensation of hot as cold and cold as hot, itching, muscle and joint pain, slow heart rate, low blood pressure. Caused by toxins in some fish, including grouper, snapper, mackerel, barracuda.
Pufferfish poisoning: numbness or tingling around the mouth, trouble coordinating movement, difficulty swallowing, excess saliva, twitching, loss of ability to talk, convulsions, paralysis that spreads upward, respiratory failure, death
Shellfish poisoning: numbness or tingling around the mouth or in the arms and legs, trouble swallowing, difficulty speaking. Caused by toxins in algae that are then eaten by shellfish.
What Causes It?:
Usually bacteria and algae cause food poisoning, but poisonous plants and animals may also be the cause.
Common bacterial toxins include:
E. coli in undercooked hamburger, unpasteurized apple juice or cider, raw milk, contaminated water (or ice), vegetables fertilized by cow manure or spread from person to person.
Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) in cole slaw, dairy products (mostly soft cheeses from outside the United States), and cold, processed meats
Salmonella spp. in poultry, beef, eggs, or dairy products
Shigella spp. from raw vegetables or cool, moist foods (such as potato and egg salads) that are handled after cooking
Staphylococcus aureus(S. aureus) in salad dressing, ham, eggs, custard-filled pastries, mayonnaise, and potato salad. Usually from the hands of food handlers.
C. jejuni in raw milk and chicken
C. botulinum in improperly home-canned foods. In children under 1 year of age, mostly from honey but also from corn syrup
Clostridium perfringens(C. perfringens) in meat and poultry dishes and gravies, mostly foods that were cooked more than 24 hours before eating and were not reheated well enough
V. cholerae in bivalve (two-shelled) shellfish (such as mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops), raw shellfish, and crustaceans (such as lobsters, shrimp, and crabs)
Common types of fish poisoning include:
Scombroid poisoning from bacteria in dark-meat fish (tuna, bonito, skipjack, mahi-mahi, mackerel) that are not refrigerated well
Ciguatera poisoning in tropical fish (grouper, surgeonfish, snapper, barracuda, moray eel, shark) that have eaten toxic plankton
Puffer fish poisoning from the organs and flesh of puffer fish
Poisoning from shellfish that feed on certain algae
Mushroom poisoning occurs from eating wild poisonous mushrooms, especially Amanita