Food poisoning is the name for a range of illnesses caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or drink. It is also called foodborne illness.
The effects of foodborne illness are considerable:
- 1.2 million people visit the doctor
- 300,000 prescriptions are written for antibiotics
- 2.1 million days of work are lost every year.
- 15,000 to 18,000 hospitalisations occur
- An estimated 125 people die each year from foodborne illnesses
Most food poisoning is caused by harmful micro-organisms (pathogens) getting into food and drink.
- The most common types of food poisoning are caused by:
- bacteria eg Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli and Listeria
- viruses eg Norovirus, Rotavirus and Hepatitis A
- toxins produced by some bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens.
Some of these micro-organisms can also be transferred from person-to-person with or without symptoms, or via contaminated surfaces. The symptoms they cause are the same even if food is not involved.