The 3 Causes of Food Poisoning

By on May 21, 2011
Woman with food poisoning.

There are three ways in which illness or “poisoning” can be caused by food. All of which involve either chemicals or bacteria which unfortunately find their way onto edible food preparations.

1. Chemical Poisons Present In The Food

Poisonous mushrooms can cause death: the green leaves (not stems) of rhubarb can cause illness; Pacific Coast mussels should not be eaten from May 1st through October because they produce  heat-resistant poison which can cause gastrointestinal upsets; green part of white potatoes can cause illness.

2. Chemicals Added To Foods

Lead arsenic used for insect spray on growing fruits or vegetables, some insecticides used for pest and insect control, silver polishes which contain cyanide, and vermin poisons can cause illness.

3. Disease-Producing Organisms In The Food

It is known that the following diseases can be transmitted through foods:

  • tuberculosis,
  • diphtheria,
  • scarlet fever,
  • septic sore throat (streptococcal)
  • dysentery,
  • typhoid fever
  • tularemia
  • staphylococcal food poisoning
  • brucellosis (undulant fever)
  • foot-and-mouth disease
  • botulism
  • tape worm
  • pinworm
  • trichinosis

Handling infected rabbits with bare hands may result in tularemia. Milk pasteurization and meat inspection have nearly eliminated bovine tuberculosis.

The foods which are most commonly involved in food poisoning are : ham, poultry, custard or cream-filled baked products, eggs, and vegetables. The vinegar in mayonnaise does inhibit the growth of common organisms, but when mayonnaise is added to salads or other foods the vinegar is not concentrated enough to provide protection against the growth of food poisoning organisms.

Food poisoning bacteria may contaminate ready-to-serve food if it is kept longer than one hour at room temperature.

Streptococcus infections from food occur occasionally. The foods most often involved are meat, poultry dressing, and milk. The incubation period ranges from two to 18 hours. The organism is slightly heat resistant; pasteurization does not suffice to destroy it but thorough cooking of food will. Adequate refrigeration prevents growth of streptococcus.

Trichinosis is caused by a nematode worm, Trichinella spiralis. Human trichinosis usually results from the consuming of raw or incompletely cooked pork containing the encysted larvae. The worm goes through its life cycle in hogs, mice, rats, cats, dogs, and bears, as well as in humans. Thorough cooking of pork ensures the destruction of any trichinae that may have been present.