About Staphylococcus

September 3rd, 2007

Staphylococcal food poisoning is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. Found on the skin and in the nasal passages of up to 50 % of healthy people, this bacterium is unique in its ability to make different toxins that are responsible for causing food poisoning.

Healthcare professionals may refer to the bacterium and its disease as “staph” or “staph food poisoning.”

Individuals infected with staph may experience nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, headache, fever, chills, weakness, and dizziness within 1 to 6 hours after eating contaminated food.

Staphylococcal food poisoning occurs when an individual eats food contaminated with toxins produced by the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium.

Food initially becomes contaminated with Staphylococcus through contact with a contaminated work surface, or, most typically, by contact with food workers who carry the bacteria on their skin. For this reason, it is crucial that food workers practice good hand hygiene and wear gloves while handling food to reduce risk.

Food can also become cross-contaminated by coming into contact with contaminated milk or cheese. The bacteria can then multiply in the food and produce the toxin that causes illness. Staphylococcal toxins are resistant to heat and cannot be destroyed by cooking.

Foods that pose the greatest risk are those that are prepared by hand, do not require cooking as part of their preparation, and are then left at room temperature giving the bacteria time to grow and produce toxins. Commonly implicated foods include sandwiches, meats, egg products, tuna, chicken, macaroni, and potato salads. Also, cream-filled pastries, pies, and milk and dairy products may be implicated.

The information contained on this page has been gathered from the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and other sources in the public domain.

Entry Filed under: About Staphylococcus


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