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Food poisoning

Intestinal disorders caused by bacterial products (toxins), not by the growth of bacteria in the intestine. Toxins may originate from within the bacterium, the bacterial wall, or can be actively produced by the bacterium. The term ‘food poisoning’ is often used incorrectly to describe gastroenteritis, which usually results from a salmonella bacterium that multiplies to cause an ordinary infection. Most cases of food poisoning are caused by staphylococcal toxins, usually from meat, fish or milk. Even pasteurized milk can sporadically lead to food poisoning, because although the bacteria are killed in pasteurization their toxin can remain intact. However, it is usually unheated foods that are involved (a specific example is ice cream that has not been carefully manufactured). Symptoms of poisoning occur a few hours after eating, and include a flow of saliva followed by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramp, diarrhoea and sometimes fever. The higher the percentage of poisonous substances, the more severe the symptoms. The symptoms disappear after three to six hours, and recovery is complete. Very serious cases leading to the patient’s death practically never occur. A serious form of food poisoning is botulism, caused by toxins from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. This may lead to paralysis which can finally result in the patient’s death. Ordinary food poisoning is treated, if necessary, by giving additional liquid. Botulism is treated with an immune serum. It is also important to detect the source in order to prevent further cases from arising. Prevention is an important factor, specifically in the food preparation industry.

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