*Food-borne Illness*
By: Crawlingtoy
22 September 2004

One thing that is not talked much about in survival groups and is not noted in many preps is food-borne illnesses and cross contamination. It would be a real bummer to be struggling to outlast the normal SHTF situations, and then have your whole group become ill due to food poisoning.

There are four types of microbial contaminants: bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.

These can be arranged into two groups: microorganisms and pathogens. Microorganisms tend to be less likely to cause illness and pathogens are more likely. In this section we will talk about microorganisms.


Bacteria are microorganisms that are of the biggest concern. Some basic characteristics are:

A well known acronym to remember what bacteria needs to grow is FAT TOM

Food, to grow, food-borne microorganisms need nutrients, specifically proteins and carbohydrates, most commonly found in meat, dairy products, poultry and eggs.

Acidity, because microorganisms typically do not grow in alkaline or highly acidic foods, such as crackers or lemons.

Temperatures between 41 degrees F and 135 degrees F are optimal for growth. This is known as the temperature danger zone. Refrigeration does not necessarily kill microorganisms. Food must be handled very carefully when it is thawed, cooked, cooled, and then reheated, because it is in and out of the temperature danger zone multiple times.

Time is what microorganisms need to grow. Bacteria can double their population in twenty minutes. If food is left in the temperature danger zone for four hours or more pathogenic microorganisms can grow to levels high enough to make someone ill.

Oxygen, some require it to grow, and a few require a lack of it. Pathogens that grow with out oxygen can occur in cooked rice, untreated garlic and oil mixtures, and foil wrapped baked potatoes that have been temperature abused.

Moisture, most require water to grow, so they grow well in moist food.


Some tricks from food processors:

Some thoughts on practical methods are to remember the two most important requirements for growth-time and temperature. Microorganisms grow well at temperatures between 41 and 135 degrees F, so move it out of this range by cooking to proper temperature, freezing or refrigerating below 41 degrees. Time is the other factor, do not prepare too much food at one time and make it as close to service time as possible.



Fungi range in size from microscopic, single-celled organisms to very large, multi-cellular organisms. They are found naturally in air, soil, plants, water and some food. Mold, yeast, and mushrooms are examples of fungi.

Molds share some basic characteristics

While mold cells and spores can be killed by heating them, some toxins are not destroyed by normal cooking methods. Food with molds that are not a natural part of the product should be discarded.

Yeasts are known for their ability to spoil food rapidly. Carbon dioxide and alcohol are produced as yeast slowly consumes food. Yeast spoilage may, therefore, produce a smell or taste of alcohol. Yeast may appear as a pink discoloration or slime and may bubble. They grow well in acidic food with lower water content such as jellies, jams, syrup, honey, and fruit juice. Food that has been spoiled by yeast should be discarded.




Viruses are the smallest microbial contaminants. While a virus cannot reproduce outside a living cell, once inside a human cell, it will produce human viruses.

Basic characteristics of a virus are:

Practicing good personal hygiene is the most important thing to prevent contamination of food from food-borne viruses. It is especially important to minimize bare hand contact with ready to eat foods.


Parasites share some basic characteristics:

In closing it is best to remember that food products are not an indefinite prep and that they do go bad. While Costco and Samís Club etc are good ways to stock up for cheap, remember that it is best to take things out of big packages and put them into packaging that is fit for the size of your family. Also remember that sanitation is key to prevention of viral infections

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