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Foodborne Illness in Australia

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.