food poisoning

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An illness affecting the digestive system that results from eating food that is contaminated by bacteria or bacterial toxins, viruses, or (less commonly) by residues of insecticides (on fruit and vegetables) or poisonous chemicals such as lead or mercury. It can also be caused by eating poisonous fungi, berries, etc. Symptoms commence 1–24 hours after ingestion and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. Food-borne infections are caused by bacteria of the genera Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria in foods of animal origin. The disease is transmitted by human carriers who handle the food, by shellfish growing in sewage-polluted waters, or by vegetables fertilized by manure. Toxin-producing bacteria causing food poisoning include those of the genus Staphylococcus, which rapidly multiply in warm foods; pathogenic Escherichiacoli; and the species Clostridium perfringens, which multiplies in reheated cooked meals. A rare form of food poisoning – botulism – is caused by toxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which may contaminate badly preserved canned foods. See also gastroenteritis.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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