Commonest causes of food poisoning
■ Camplobacter is the most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. It is mainly spread through consumption of undercooked chicken or pork, contaminated water, unpasteurised milk or direct contact with infected domestic or farm animals. Following an incubation period of 3-5 days, symptoms will include abdominal pain, diarrhoea (often bloody) with nausea and fever. There is usually no vomiting and diarrhoea may continue for up to 10 days.
■ E.coli 0157 is one of a large group of bacteria called Escherichia coli (E.coli for short). It is a harmless germ in cattle but can cause serious disease in humans. It is spread through the faeces of animals. Any meat, vegetables, milk or water that has been contaminated by animal faeces can contain E.coli 0157. The symptoms of E. coli food poisoning are abdominal pain, cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea with blood. Usually, there isn’t a fever. Most people recover without antibiotics or other specific treatment in 5-10 days.
■ Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that causes mild flu-like symptoms, however it can cause severe illness for pregnant women, unborn babies, new babies and people who have serious illnesses already.
Listeria can live in meat, milk, butter, cream, yogurt and vegetables. The four simple rules to prevent food poisoning (see main article) are particularly important to avoid listeria.
■ Salmonella is a bacterium found on raw meats, poultry, eggs and in unpasteurised milk. It can be transferred from raw to cooked food by hand or contact with kitchen surfaces and equipment.
The symptoms of salmonella food poisoning are diarrhoea, cramps, vomiting and fever.
The time between contact and illness (ie the incubation period) is usually between 12 and 36 hours.
A stool sample is needed for accurate diagnosis and severe symptoms may require hospitalisation.