Staphylococcal Food Poisoning a Public Health Concern


Staphylococcal food poisoning results from eating food contaminated with toxins produced by certain types of staphylococci, resulting in diarrhea and vomiting. This disorder can be caused by toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Staphylococcus can cause food poisoning when a food handler contaminates food and then the food is not properly refrigerated. Other sources of food contamination include the equipment and surfaces on which food is prepared. These bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature to produce a toxin that causes illness. Staphylococcus is killed by cooking and pasteurization.

People who carry Staph can contaminate food if they don’t wash their hands before touching it. Staph can also be found in unpasteurized milk and cheese products. Because Staph is salt tolerant, it can grow in salty foods like ham. As it multiplies in food, Staph produces toxins. Although Staph bacteria are easily killed by cooking, the toxins are resistant to heat and so cannot be destroyed by cooking. Foods at highest risk of transmitting Staph toxins are those that people handle and remain uncooked. Food contaminated with Staph toxin may not smell bad or look spoiled.

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Ohio personal injury attorney with experience in injuries due to food poisoning. The Lyon Firm has represented plaintiffs nationwide in foodborne illness claims.


Common Sources of Staphylococcus Food Poisoning

Staphylococci bacteria grow in food and subsequently produce toxins. Staphylococcal food poisoning does not result from ingesting the bacteria but rather from ingesting the toxins made by the bacteria that are present in the contaminated food. The risk of an outbreak increases when food handlers with skin infections contaminate foods that are undercooked or left at room temperature. Foods that are particularly susceptible are those made with hand contact and require no additional cooking, including:

  • Sandwiches
  • Egg salad
  • Tuna salad
  • Chicken salad
  • Potato salad
  • Macaroni salad
  • Custard and puddings
  • Sliced processed meats
  • Unpasteurized milk and cheese products
  • Bakery products: cream-filled pastries, cream pies, and chocolate éclairs
  • Meat, poultry, eggs, and related products
    To help prevent the spread of illness and disease, some basic sanitary guidelines to follow include:
  • Washing hands vigorously with soap and water before handling and preparing foods
  • Refraining from preparing food when you have a nose or eye infection
  • Refraining from handling or serving food when you have wounds or skin infections on hands or wrists
  • Keeping kitchens and food-serving areas clean and sanitized
  • Keeping hot foods hot (over 140° F) and cold foods cold (40° F or less)
  • Storing cooked food in a wide, shallow container
  • Refrigerating foods as soon as possible

Signs & Symptoms of Staphylococcal Food Poisoning

Symptoms usually begin suddenly with severe nausea and vomiting presenting about 2 to 8 hours after a contaminated food is eaten. Other symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Severe fluid and electrolyte loss may cause weakness and very low blood pressure. Symptoms usually last from 12 hours to a couple days and recovery is usually complete.

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A diagnosis is usually is based on a patient’s symptoms. A specific diagnosis of staphylococcal food poisoning may be suspected when other people who ate the same food are similarly affected and the illness can be traced to a single source of contamination. To confirm a diagnosis, a laboratory must identify staphylococci in the suspected food. Treatment usually involves drinking plenty of fluids. Occasionally, staphylococcal food poisoning can be fatal in young children, elderly and people weakened by long-term illness.

If you or a loved one has suffered from Staphylococcal food poisoning or another a foodborne infection, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.