food poisoning


food poisoning
an acute gastrointestinal condition characterized by such symptoms as headache, fever, chills, abdominal and muscular pain, nausea, diarrhea, and prostration, caused by foods that are naturally toxic, as poisonous mushrooms, by vegetable foods that are chemically contaminated, as by insecticides, or by bacteria or their toxins, esp. of the genus Salmonella.
[1885-90]

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Acute gastrointestinal illness from eating foods containing toxins.

These toxins may be poisons that occur naturally in plants and animals, chemical contaminants, or toxic products of microorganisms. Most cases are due to bacteria (including salmonella and staphylococcus) and their toxins (including botulism). Some strains of E. coli can cause severe illness. Chemical poisons include heavy metals (see mercury poisoning), either from food or leached out from cookware by acidic foods. Food additives may have a long-term cumulative toxic effect. See also fish poisoning; mushroom poisoning.

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formerly called  ptomaine poisoning 

      acute gastrointestinal illness resulting from the consumption of foods containing one or more representatives of three main groups of harmful agents: natural poisons (poison) present in certain plants and animals, chemical poisons, and microorganisms (mainly bacteria) and their toxic secretions.

      The majority of cases of acute food poisoning are caused by bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia coli, and staphylococcus and their toxic products (see botulism and salmonellosis).

      Among the chemical poisons contaminating foods are certain heavy metals used in fungicides and insecticides (see mercury poisoning). Instances of metal poisoning may sometimes be traced to the serving or preparation of acidic foods in certain cookware (see antimony poisoning; cadmium poisoning). Various food additives and preservatives, though generally innocuous on a short-term basis, may exert a cumulative toxic effect when ingested over a long period.

      The more common poisonous plants and animals that cause food poisoning in humans include certain varieties of mussels and clams (see shellfish poisoning); ocean and freshwater fish (see fish poisoning); fungi (see mushroom poisoning); plants (e.g., water hemlock, rhubarb greens); and nuts (e.g., akee nuts), seeds (e.g., tung seeds), and beans (e.g., fava beans).

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Universalium. 2010.