Main food-poisoning culprits


Food-poisoning is no fun. In fact, it is downright dangerous. Contaminated food can poison your whole system for days. The experience is of such a kind that many people will avoid the particular foodstuff in question for the rest of their lives.

Certain foodstuffs always get the blame for food-poisoning incidents, such as seafood or chicken. But there are many other possible culprits, such as vegetables, reheated buffet foods, rice and eggs, which might have poisoned you.

 It's not always easy to find out what exactly caused your illness. It's always a good idea to check with others who ate the same foods, and identify the culprit by seeing which other people also became ill.

The table below lists the micro-organisms most commonly associated with food-borne illness and examples of foods that are typical vehicles for those illnesses:

Bacillus cereusReheated cooked rice, cooked meats, starchy puddings, vegetables and fish.
Improper handling after cooking is a common feature of foods causing B. cereus associated food-borne illness.
Clostridium perfringensReheated foods including buffet dishes, cooked meat and poultry, beans, gravy, stews and soups.
Clostridium botulinumImproperly canned (home-preserved) foods such as vegetables, fish, meat and poultry.
Escherichia coli
Salads and raw vegetables, undercooked meat, cheese, unpasteurised milk.
Campylobacter jejuniRaw milk, poultry.
Listeria monocytogenesUnpasteurised milk and milk products such as soft cheeses, raw meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, paté, smoked meat and fish, coleslaw.
SalmonellaUndercooked poultry, meat, shellfish, salads, eggs and dairy products.
Staphylococcus aureusHam, poultry, eggs, ice-cream, cheese, salads, custard and cream-filled pastries and gravies, are the most common sources. Improper handling of food or poor hygiene could help S.aureus spread into food.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus and other marine VibrioRaw and undercooked fish and shellfish.
Trichinella spiralisUndercooked pork or game.
Toxoplasma gondiiUndercooked meat and poultry and raw milk.
Hepatitis A virusShellfish, raw fruits and vegetables can be the uncommon cause of hepatitis A. Hepatitis A can be spread by contaminated food handlers inadvertently transferring the virus to the food they handle.

Source: The European Food Information Council (

- (Health 24, updated August 2010)

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