*Food Poisoning Basics*

02 March 2003
By Stryder

What is food poisoning? Food poisoning is caused by harmful bacteria and usually causes flu-like intestinal symptoms that last from several hours to several days with varying severity. But in the case of botulism or when food poisoning strikes infants, the elderly, or weakened individuals, then the situation can be more serious.

Bacteria that causes food poisoning is found all around us. It occurs in the air, in the soil, in our own bodies, and in the digestive tracks of animals. To avoid these bacteria we need to pay attention to safe food handling. There are generally five main bacteria that infect human food sources. The list below includes some information about those bacteria and some suggestions for avoiding infection.


How it attacks



Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)

Found in skin, boils, pimples and throat infections and is transferred from someone handling food. At warm temperatures Staph produces a poison.

2-8 hrs. after eating you generally experience vomiting and diarrhea lasting a day or two.

The most susceptible foods are meat, cheese, egg products and starchy foods like potato, macaroni, pasta, and tuna salads. Wash hands and utensils before preparing foods and donít leave foods out for over two hours. Cooking does NOT destroy Staph poison.


You get salmonella when you eat infected raw foods, meat, poultry, eggs, fish or when those cooked foods come into contact with infected raw foods or raw food juices.

In 12-36 hrs. you could have severe explosive diarrhea, mild fever, and projectile vomiting lasting 2-7 days.

Keep raw foods away form cooked foods. Avoid unpasteurized milk and be especially careful with ground beef, raw eggs, and roast beef.

Clostridium perfringens

This is sometimes called the buffet germ or Thanksgiving germ. It grows in large quantities of foods that are cooling slowly.

In 8-12 hours you will have strong gas pains in the lower abdomen and diarrhea usually ending in less that 24 hours. Older people and especially ulcer patients can be severely affected but it is rare with this bacterium.

Keep hot food hot (over 140F) and cold food cold (under 40F). Divide large bulk cooked foods into smaller portions for serving and storing. Be especially careful with large poultry, large casseroles, and large quantities of gravy and stews.

Campylobacter jejuni

Usually found in water supplies. Could be form drinking untreated water or eating uncooked shellfish from infected water. Pets are often the carriers for a family. They become infected from drinking water and spread it to the family at home.

In 2-5 days you generally have severe (generally bloody) diarrhea, severe cramping, and moderate to severe headaches that last 2-5days.

Donít drink untreated water in the "wild" and avoid unpasteurized milk. Thoroughly cook any fish or shellfish form possibly infected waters.

Clostridium botulinum

Often occurs in home canned foods. Clear liquids turn milky, loose lids, cracked jars or uneven jar tops are all signs. Beware of any jar that doesnít open "right" or smells "wrong."

In 12-48 hours your nervous system is affected with double vision, droopy eyelids, trouble speaking and swallowing, and difficulty breathing. Untreated it leads to death.

Carefully examine home canned goods before using them and donít use any foods that show danger signs. A wasted quart of canned goods is MUCH better than a death in the family or a large medical bill.


I think I can sum up what every team medic will tell you is the best way to avoid infection in just six words. WASH YOUR HANDS WELL AND OFTEN!

Now - Get out and train!


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