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What are common causes of food poisoning?

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Your treatment partly depends on what gave you food poisoning and how sick you are. Some of the causes, from most to least common in the United States, include:

  • Norovirus: You can get this virus from raw fruits and vegetables. You can also get this from shellfish, such as lobster and clams, that come from tainted water. Food handlers who have norovirus can also spread it as they prepare meals for customers.
  • Salmonella. These bacteria can be found on raw or undercooked meats, raw eggs, and dairy products, such as milk.
  • Clostridium perfringens. Usually a problem on foods left unrefrigerated for too long, this is common in meats, stews, and gravies.
  • Campylobacter. You get can this from raw or undercooked meat, especially chicken, as well as unpasteurized milk and tainted water.
  • Shigella. Often spread when someone uses tainted water to clean food, it can be found on seafood and raw, ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables.
  • E. coli. You often get this one from undercooked beef, especially ground beef, as well as unpasteurized milk.
  • Giardia intestinalis. This is a parasite found in stream water or food contaminated by stool.
  • Listeria. Less common than others on this list, you can get it from packaged foods such as hot dogs and lunch meats, soft cheeses such as brie, and raw fruits and vegetables. Pregnant women need to be extra careful about listeria because it can cause a miscarriage.

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Food Poisoning,” “Food-borne Illness: First Aid.”

NIH: “Why is the neurobiology of nausea and vomiting so important?”

NHS: “Food Poisoning.”

Poison Control: “Food Poisoning.”

KidsHealth: “Food Poisoning,” “Gastrointestinal Infections and Diarrhea,” “Basic Blood Tests.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Food Poisoning.”

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas on April 3, 2019

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Food Poisoning,” “Food-borne Illness: First Aid.”

NIH: “Why is the neurobiology of nausea and vomiting so important?”

NHS: “Food Poisoning.”

Poison Control: “Food Poisoning.”

KidsHealth: “Food Poisoning,” “Gastrointestinal Infections and Diarrhea,” “Basic Blood Tests.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Food Poisoning.”

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas on April 3, 2019

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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