Causes of food poisoning

Food poisoning is caused by a variety of factors which include bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxins. However, these can be grouped into the following two categories:

Both of these are discussed in detail within this section.

So what do we mean by ‘contamination’and ‘cross-contamination?

Contamination refers to the infestation of food by bacteria, e.g. e coli, viruses, parasites or toxins at any stage. This means from its initial growth to the moment it is served on a plate.

Cross-contamination is a term used to describe a process which causes food poisoning in which raw food is combined with cooked food. This enables bacteria from the raw food, for example, the juices from raw beef, to spread onto food which is ready to eat.

Both of these are forms of contamination which can happen as a result of improper care and attention when preparing, cooking or storing food.

Even something as simple as washing your hands before handling food can be a factor.

Is there a difference between these two?

Contamination can mean that food is at risk of being infected at any stage whereas cross-contamination occurs because harmful bacteria are able to spread between raw and cooked food.

You could argue that there is no difference between the two as both of these are preventable. They occur due to human error or to be more precise, a lack of awareness of the importance of food safety.

Sometimes it is easier said than done. There are a few common sense precautions in regard to preparing, cooking and storing food which you can follow when applied to cooking at home.

But what about eating out or having a takeaway meal?

Contamination or cross-contamination can occur without your knowledge which means that you are unable to prevent this from happening. The only way of doing so is to never eat out at a restaurant or order a takeaway but most people would be against doing this.

It is impossible to protect yourself against every type of food poisoning but there are ways you can minimise the risk. Our preventing food poisoning section discusses this in more detail within this guide.

Food Poisoning Guide

Medic8® Guides

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved