Keep A Clean Kitchen: Guide To Food Borne Illnesses

Food poisoning is unpleasant and can sometimes even be fatal. The best way to handle food poisoning is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Anyone who prepares or handles food should know the proper way handling the food to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. Cooking food thoroughly and washing raw vegetables and fruit before eating prevent the spread of pathogens. To prevent cross-contamination, it’s important to keep kitchen surfaces clean. Dishes should be washed in water and counters and surfaces wiped down with a disinfectant after each meal.


The bacteria salmonella causes the illness salmonellosis. People get salmonellosis by eating foods that were contaminated with the bacteria, such as raw eggs, chicken and beef. The bacteria have been found in frozen foods and peanut butter as well. Common symptoms include diarrhea and cramps. Usually, the symptoms clear up on their own after about five days, though very severe cases require antibiotics. People can attempt to prevent salmonellosis by cooking foods thoroughly.


Botulism is a rare food borne illness. It is caused by a toxin released by bacteria; the bacteria that causes botulism is found in foods that were canned improperly or in fermented seafood. Symptoms of the infection include blurred or double vision, breathing difficulty, and paralysis. An anti-toxin may be injected into a person with botulism to prevent further damage to the nerves. If the person still has food contained with the toxin in their system, vomiting may be induced to flush out the food. People can prevent the disease by heating or boiling any foods that they are suspicious of. High heat kills the bacteria and its toxins.

E. Coli

There are many types of E. coli bacteria. Some types, such as E. coli O157:H7, cause illness, while others live in the human body and do not cause harm. A common symptom of an infection is diarrhea. Severe infections can lead to death. The best way to prevent an infection is to cook foods properly and to avoid drinking water from an unclean source.


Listeria is another illness caused by eating food contaminated by bacteria. The illness is particularly risky for women who are pregnant and for older people and people with weak immune systems. Fever is a common symptom of the infection, as are headaches and a stiff neck. Pregnant women may miscarry or go into labor prematurely. Unlike some bacteria, Listeria can grow and thrive in a cool environment, like the refrigerator. To prevent the illness, people should clean any spills in their refrigerator immediately, using hot water and soap. They should also thoroughly clean any raw produce before eating it and cook meats all the way through.

“Mad Cow” Disease

“Mad Cow” disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, is not caused by a bacteria or virus, but by a prion, or a type of protein. It affects cattle. It is thought that Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a disease that affects humans, is related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Both diseases are very rare. Only three cases of BSE have been identified in the US. All of the cases were in cows that did not enter the food supply.


Norovirus is one of the leading causes of food poisoning in the US. It causes acute gastroenteritis and symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea in people. The virus is spread through food and water. People can also be exposed by touching a surface that is contaminated. Aside from drinking plenty of fluids and rest, there is no treatment for the illness. People can try to prevent it by washing their hands regularly and by washing any surfaces.


Staph infections are usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria. There are more than 30 different types of staph bacteria.. Many people have the bacteria on their body naturally. When the infection is linked to food poisoning, people usually experience stomach problems including vomiting and cramps. An infection is usually treated with antibiotics. One strain of the bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, does not respond to the standard antibiotics used to treat the infection.


The bacteria campylobactor causes the illness campylobacteriosis. People usually get the illness after eating poultry that has not been cooked properly or by eating food that has been contaminated by the juice of raw poultry. Symptoms of the illness include a fever, pain and cramps in the abdomen and diarrhea. Antibiotics may be prescribed, but most people recover without medication or treatment. Hand washing, cooking chicken and other poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and not drinking raw milk are ways to prevent the illness.

Join the Conversation

See what other Designer Appliances readers are saying.