The 4 Types of Food Poisoning Explained

By  //  April 8, 2021

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Food poisoning is brought on by ingesting contaminated food. In the following, we will cover four of the most common foodborne illnesses, Salmonella, E. coli, norovirus, and Listeria.

Depending on the form of the disease, symptoms can vary from mild to life-threatening. In most cases, food poisoning can be avoided by respecting simple hygiene standards and measures, like washing hands.

1. Salmonella

The bacteria was discovered in 1885 by the American scientist Dr. Daniel E. Salmon. The illness caused by the bacteria is known as salmonellosis. With tens of million people infected worldwide, Salmonella is the leading food poisoning illness.

Food poisoning can often be preventable through good hygiene standards and practices. Therefore, if you have been affected by a Salmonella outbreak, or fell victim in other ways to food poisoning, consider talking to a Decatur personal injury lawyer. They can advise you about how to take legal action in this matter and what compensation to expect.


The most common source of contamination is the ingestion of food contaminated by feces. Contamination is often caused by people not washing their hands before handling food. However, contamination has also been linked to other products, like spices.

These are some of the most common contamination sources:

■ Raw or undercooked meat (including chicken, pork, turkey, and beef)

■ Raw or undercooked eggs

■ Dairy products

■ Raw fruits and vegetables


The good news is that many infected people do not develop any symptoms, while others only have mild discomfort. This usually dissipates within a week and does not require specific treatment. Even if it is not a frequent occurrence, there are also more serious and even life-threatening cases.

Symptomatology can include:

■ Fever

■ Stomach cramps and pain

■ Diarrhea

■ Headache

■ Chills

2. E. Coli

Escherichia coli is a common bacteria also found in the intestines of healthy animals and people. However, there are a few strains that cause discomfort to people. Symptoms are usually mild, and they commonly include diarrhea and stomach cramps. Interestingly, June to September is the period with most cases in the U.S. There is no explanation for this peak yet.

One of the most dangerous strains, O157:H7, can lead to more severe symptomatology like bloody vomiting and diarrhea, kidney failure, and seizures. Some of the symptoms can be life-threatening. This strain attacks the lining of the small intestine through a toxin it produces.

An E. coli infection is caused by ingesting a harmful strain. These bacteria are quite strong, so even a small dose can trigger symptomatology.


Exposure to harmful E. coli can happen in various ways. While contaminated food is still the most common way, it is not the only one. People can get infected through contaminated water or person-to-person contact.

Dangerous types of food:

■ Undercooked beef (watch out for undercooked burgers)

■ Raw vegetables

■ Soft cheese from raw milk


The expected recovery time for a healthy adult is about one week. However, the more vulnerable groups, like seniors and children, may take longer to recover. These groups are also more likely to develop severe symptoms.

Some of the main E. coli symptoms are:

■ Diarrhea

■ Nausea

■ Vomiting

■ Stomach cramps

3. Norovirus

This refers to a group of viruses that can lead to inflammation at the intestines or stomach. While most people recover with no or minimal medical intervention, those with a more vulnerable immune system can experience severe symptoms. The trouble with norovirus is that they are extremely resistant. They can survive even extreme temperatures.


This type of virus is highly contagious, and one can become infected in many ways. Although food contamination is the leading cause, water and surfaces are also easily contaminated through contact with an infected person. What is more, the virus can also spread through close contact.


Some people do not display any symptoms, but they are still carriers and can pass the virus to others. The illness tends to have a sudden onset, and symptoms begin manifesting from twelve hours to two days after exposure.

The signs associated with norovirus include:

■ Diarrhea

■ Vomiting

■ Body aches

■ Fever

■ Dehydration

4. Listeria

Listeriosis is a less popular illness caused by food poisoning. It is linked to the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, discovered in 1911. However, only through the outbreaks of 1980 was it labeled as a foodborne illness.

The bacteria was named after the British surgeon Joseph Lister, the father of modern surgery. He revolutionized the field by militating for sterilizing surgical instruments before use. His practice greatly reduced post-surgical complications and made surgery a safer option.

Unlike the previous foodborne illnesses that we discussed,Listeria is rarer but tends to be more serious. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the disease has a mortality rate of 20%-30% even if the patients are on antibiotic treatment. The majority of those infected end up in intensive care units under strict medical monitoring.

These high numbers are mainly because the disease tends to target vulnerable groups (pregnant women, children, the elderly). Healthy people with a strong immune system rarely manifest any symptoms.


Infections from this bacteria are commonly linked to unpasteurized milk products and improperly processed meats. The bacteria is very resistant and can withstand freezing temperatures. Therefore, according to medical experts, the best preventative measure is for the at-risk groups to avoid these products.


A couple of days after exposure to contaminated food, the infected person can start exhibiting symptoms. However, it can last almost a month for the full spectrum of signs to manifest.

Depending on the form, listeriosis can manifest as:

■ Fever

■ Vomiting

■ Loss of balance

■ Confusion

■ Convulsions

What’s Next?

If you suspect food poisoning, it is best to contact your physician for a consultation. In some cases, food poisoning may not pose a serious health threat, but in other cases, it can lead to critical or even life-threatening. Also, consider contacting a qualified lawyer to discuss how you can seek compensation for the pain and suffering caused by food poisoning.

Cheryl Roy

About the Author

Cheryl Roy has built a successful legal career over the years. However, she wanted to reach out to people beyond her practice and decided to do so by writing. Cheryl took it as a personal mission to make legal information more accessible to the public. Therefore, she started sharing her expertise with individuals and businesses facing a legal dilemma. Now she has branched out to many online and offline platforms and works as a collaborative editor for Bader Scott Law Firm.