Eating food contaminated by bacteria is the main cause of food poisoning, which affects millions of people worldwide annually. Food poisoning can also be caused by viruses and parasites, though this is less common.
Food can get contaminated if it is not cooked, handled or stored correctly. High-risk sources of food poisoning include:
- Red meat/poultry, processed meats
- Unpasteurised milk/milk products
- Soft cheeses
Mild cases of food poisoning usually resolve within a couple of days without medical treatment. However, if your symptoms persist and are accompanied by high fever and severe dehydration, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, and individuals with a weakened immune system have a higher risk of developing serious food poisoning.
High-risk sources of food poisoning
Red meat, poultry, processed meats: Raw and undercooked red meat and poultry are high on the list of food poisoning sources because they are prone to contamination by bacteria such as campylobacter, salmonella, and E. coli. Processed meats, e.g. sausages, luncheon meat, can get tainted by the listeria bacteria.
Eggs: The protein-rich egg white, yolk as well as the egg shell can get contaminated by the salmonella bacteria. You run the risk of food poisoning if you eat infected eggs raw or undercooked, in any form.
Shellfish: Vibrio is a bacteria that can contaminate oysters, mussels, clams and other shellfish. You can prevent food poisoning if you handle shellfish carefully to prevent cross-contamination, and cook thoroughly before consumption.
Milk: Raw or unpasteurised milk and milk products, whether from cows, sheep or goat, can harbour bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria. Children and teenagers are particularly at risk of this type of food poisoning.
Soft cheese: Brie, camembert and other types of soft cheese are less acidic than hard cheese and contain more moisture, which is why they are particularly susceptible to contamination from listeria. Women are advised to avoid soft cheeses during pregnancy.