Food Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

updated 05-07-2023

Food poisoning is a common illness caused by consuming contaminated food. The main culprits behind food poisoning are bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, as well as viruses such as norovirus

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

The symptoms of food poisoning usually manifest within one to two days after consuming contaminated food. These symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (which may contain blood or mucus), stomach cramps, weakness, loss of appetite, fever, muscle aches, and chills. Fortunately, most cases resolve within a few days with proper rest and hydration

Treatment and Prevention

To recover from food poisoning, it is recommended to rest and drink fluids to prevent dehydration. Stick to light and bland foods like toast, crackers, bananas, and rice until you start feeling better. Oral rehydration solutions (available at pharmacies) are advisable for vulnerable individuals such as the elderly or those with underlying health conditions and unabsorbable antibiotic in absence of fever and eubiotic drugs to enhance the presence of normal flora in the GUT

In certain situations, it is important to seek medical advice from your GP. This includes severe symptoms like continuous vomiting, no improvement after a few days, signs of severe dehydration, pregnancy, age over 60, suspected food poisoning in a baby or young child, and underlying conditions or weakened immune systems

Causes of Food Contamination

Food contamination can occur at any stage during production, processing, or cooking. It can happen through improper cooking of food, incorrect storage of perishables, leaving cooked food at warm temperatures for too long, inadequate reheating, improper hygiene practices, consuming expired food, and cross-contamination between contaminated foods.

Foods particularly susceptible to contamination include raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, raw shellfish, unpasteurized milk, and "ready-to-eat" foods like cooked sliced meats, pâté, soft cheeses, and pre-packed sandwiches.

Read more about the causes of food poisoning and preventing food poisoning