Most Common Food borne Illnesses
Most Common Food borne Illnesses
Florida Food Handler Certificates


Botulism is caused by the family of bacteria known as Clostridium Botulinum.  This bacteria is well suited to thrive in low-oxygen conditions.  The bacteria specialty is the production of spores that remain dormant until they are exposed to the proper conditions needed for growth.

Although home-canning has become a popular hobby you must be careful when taking on this task because outbreaks of botulism have been linked to home canning gone awry.  Although botulism in home-canning is more common than in store bought cans this does not mean that botulism does not occur in the latter.

Symptoms of botulism include dry mouth, slurred speech, muscle weakness, blurry vision and trouble swallowing.  You can expect symptoms to appear 18 to 36 hours of eating tainted food.  If left untreated botulism can wreak havoc on your body even causing death.  If caught with time medicine can be given to stop the spread of the bacteria.  Vomiting will also be induced to rid the body of any tainted food particles.

E. Coli:

Most people may be aware of this food borne illness.  Rarely do more than a couple of years go by without hearing about a new outbreak caused by tainted meat.  E. Coli is a large group of bacteria which for the most part aren’t harmful.  However there is a batch known as Shiga Toxin-producing E. Coli a.k.a. STEC.  Of these STEC the most common is E. Coli O157:H7 which is the one you see so often on the news.

This bacteria hang out in the guts of ruminant animals such as cattle, deer, goat and sheep.  The problem arises in the slaughtering process where these animals intestines may be cut exposing the meat to the bacteria that was held within.

Common symptoms of E. Coli is diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps and sometimes fever.  33 percent of people who develop E. Coli end up being hospitalized with about 5 percent of them dying.  The illness is most dangerous in children.

Be extra careful when consuming ground beef.  Ground beef comes from the gridning together of many different cows which means that if one cow was tainted the whole batch will be tainted.  E.coli can also be found in unpasteurized milk or cheeses made from raw milk.

Vegetables are not safe as well. In 2006 the United States saw a big outbreak in tainted spinach.  It turns out that the fertilizer that was used had come from animal feces that were tainted with E. Coli.


This illness is solely caused by humans and can be easily avoided if people were to just follow a few rules.  This virus is spread through using the bathroom and not washing your hands properly (or at all! In some peoples cases).  You can also contract this illness by touching a surface with norovirus germs with your hands and then putting them in your mouth.

The symptoms can come on as quickly as 12 hours after exposure or as late as 48 hours.  The symptoms usually include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headaches, low fever and sluggishness.  Unfortunately there is no treatment for this illness, on the upside it usually runs its course fairly quickly.


This is a big one and is also fairly known amongst people.  This bacteria also lives in the intestinal tracts of animals.  When feces come in hand with food that isn’t cooked the bacteria can be transmitted to humans.

A remarkable 40,000 cases of salmonella are reported yearly.  This number may be mis-leading though.  Since the majority of people who get sick from salmonella do not seek medical help it is believe that the number can be 30 times higher than what is reported.

Like most food borne illnesses salmonella causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.  These symptoms can occur anywhere between 12 to 72 hours after being infected.  The illness usually clears up on its own with 4 to 7 days after infection.  In more serious cases where the bacteria spreads to the intestines antibiotics may be used for treatment.   

All in all these are illnesses that can be treated if precaution is taken.  Remember to always cook your food to the proper temperature indicated and to properly wash your hands as well as sanitize any utensils being used in the preparation process making sure not to cross contaminate your food.

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