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Bacteria That Cause Food Poisoning

Updated on September 7, 2013

The Truth About Food Poisoning

Symptoms of food poisoning include: vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps, fever, headache and giddiness
Symptoms of food poisoning include: vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps, fever, headache and giddiness | Source

We may have noticed that the trend of cases of food poisoning is on the rise. We wonder if one day, we could be a victim of it. Anybody can fall sick after consuming contaminated food, which contain harmful organisms or substances. This is called food poisoning.

When I was in primary school, I bought this barbequed chicken intestine skewer and a few hours later, suffered the nastiest bout of amoebiasis. Hours upon hours passed, days went by and a million toilet trips after, I slowly took the road to recovery. It was definitely something I did not want to go though again and I was scarred after that. I was traumatised and for years, did not eat anything that reminded me of chicken.

Then I realised the fact that it was not the poor chicken's fault. It was the street vendor's poor food handling skills. Food hygiene was simply not in his main priorities. This tells us loud and clear that if food is not handled properly, we all may come knocking on death's door earlier than we hope.

Food poisoning usually happens when we have an infection immediately or soon after eating a contaminated food.

On the other hand, a person afflicted with food-borne disease needs a little bit more incubation time before certain symptoms noticed.

Some of the symptoms include (but not limited to):

  1. Vomiting
  2. Stomach Cramps
  3. Fever
  4. Diarrhoea
  5. Nausea
  6. Headache
  7. Giddiness

These are all caused by the tiny--but often toxic-- microorganisms. There are two groups of microorganisms:


These are very harmful microorganisms that cause various illnesses. Food contaminated with these pathogens and consumed may cause food-borne illness. There are two main groups under this:



These microorganisms can cause food to spoil or rot, which can cause illness. This may include two groups of fungi:

  1. Mold
  2. Yeast


We need to know that bacteria are the most common cause of food-borne illness. Here are a few of the most common ones:

1. Clostridium botulinum

This bacteria causes botulism by the production of a neurotoxin. This toxin is not just your average neurotoxin. The Type A C. botulinum is considered as the most potent neurotoxin in the world. It inhibits muscular contraction by a cascade of reactions of the toxin. We can find small amounts of this bacteria in botox, an injectable drug that slows down aging. In food, botulism is often the result of eating canned goods. Good news though, the toxins can be destroyed with high temperatures.

The mechanism of action of how this bacteria inhibits muscular contraction is demonstrated by the video below:

C. botulinum Neurotoxin Type A MOA

Symptoms of botulism are as follows:

  1. Diarrhoea (or constipation)
  2. Dizziness
  3. Weakness
  4. Death if left untreated
  5. Breathing difficulty
  6. Paralysis
  7. Speaking difficulty
  8. Swallowing difficulty
  9. Vision problems

There are many ways to prevent botulism. If we are in the habit of eating canned goods, if we see that the can is bulged or dented, it may good to steer clear away from it or better yet, discard. Once you open the can, another good way of knowing is that if it spurts liquid, then it may also be a warning that botulinum is breeding vigorously inside.


Dented or bulged cans like the ones shown above are big no-no. More importantly, do not get attracted by the 50% off on the shelves. Many are dented and potentially unsafe. Better to spend a few more cents to buy the cans without the sale than to get sick and shell out thousands to pay for medical bills.

2. Campylobacter jejuni

This bacterium causes campylobacteriosis, which can be contracted by consuming unpasteurised milk, dairy products, raw beef or poultry, unchlorinated water. Symptoms usually can be seen in 2 to 5 days and lasts from 7 to 10 days.

Symptoms include:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Nausea
  3. Fever
  4. Abdominal pain
  5. Muscle cramps
  6. Headache

This can also be prevented by using potable water and safe ice, by practising good hygiene, avoiding cross contamination of food, cooking food properly to the required safe temperature, controlling pests, using pasteurised products.


The C. jejuni hijacks the chicken's GI tract mucosal layer. Since this bacterium can be passed via faecal-oral route, once it contaminates the water or other products, and we consume it, it can take over our intestine. As a result, we get the nasty symptoms enumerated above such as diarrhoea.

3. Escherichia coli

This bacterium causes E.coli infection. Like the botulinum, it also produces a toxin called Shiga which causes severe symptoms.

Some of the symptoms are:

  1. Cramps
  2. Diarrhoea (watery to bloody)
  3. Vomiting
  4. Kidney failure
  5. Death if left untreated

These symptoms are often observed after 3 to 8 days and can last from 2 to 9 days.

Our intestines have toxic bacteria thriving there. Inside, they may benefit us but once released out by defecation, they have the ability to contaminate our food and water sources. Once consumed, they can cause the symptoms above.

It is vital to have proper hygiene and to cook all food to their optimal temperature. Washing hands after using the toilet can help stop the contamination of this bacteria to our food.

Watch the short video below to get more information how an E. coli bacterium infects its host.

4. Listeria monocytogenes

For more information about this bacterium which causes listeriosis, you may refer to my other hub especially catered to it. Please click here.

5. Clostridium perfringens

This bacterium causes abdominal craps and diarrhoea but no vomiting. Symptoms are usually observed from 8 to 24 hours. This is often called the cafeteria germ because it is found when food is left on steam tables at wrong temperatures or improperly cooled.

By practising good personal hygiene, cooking and cooling food properly is a good way to prevent the illness.

6. Salmonella

This bacterium causes Salmonellosis.

Symptoms of salmonellosis are:

  1. Fever
  2. Nausea
  3. Stomach cramps
  4. Headache
  5. Vomiting
  6. Diarrhoea

Symptoms can occur 6 to 48 hours later.

By practising good personal hygiene, cooking and cooling food properly will usually reduce the chance of contracting this bacterium.

To learn how a salmonella invades the host cell, view the video below.



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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I had food poisoning once and it was due to a bottle of salad dressing. It was left out too long for consumption. As you listed, I had nausea, vomiting, and the rest. It is not a something you ever want to pass through again. This post is excellent and well done.