There are so many different food poisoning causes that medical science hasn't identified all of them. Most cases of food borne illness are caused from bacteria or viruses, however. Bacteria thrive in non-living substances, while viruses require a living host in order to exist. Viral and bacterial food poisoning causes have many different methods of contamination.
Bacteria can remain on the surface of fruits and vegetables. If produce isn't properly washed or processed, the bacteria can be ingested and cause food poisoning. Canned fruits and vegetables can be one of the most serious food poisoning causes if the produce is improperly processed. Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that produces a toxin that can cause severe illness and death. Bulging cans or lids are signs that produce was improperly canned; eating these foods can result in death from botulism poisoning.
Most food poisoning causes don't produce such serious effects. Flu-like symptoms and intestinal problems that go away in one or two days are more common. Food poisoning symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for the flu. Stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting are common signs.
Viral cases of food poisoning are commonly caused by feces contamination. If cooks and those who prepare foods don't wash their hands properly after using the bathroom, contamination and food poisoning can result. This type of food poisoning can affect entire institutions, such as child day cares and schools. Fecal matter in shellfish is another viral food poisoning cause.
Foods that are not fully cooked can also cause food-borne illnesses. All foods should be cooked to their proper temperature to avoid causing food poisoning. Leaving cooked food unrefrigerated for more than two hours is another food poisoning cause that can be easily avoided. The basic rule of thumb in food safety is that hot foods should stay hot and cold foods should stay cold.
Properly preparing raw meat for cooking is especially important in avoiding food poisoning. Raw meats can contain bacteria that causes food poisoning. If the uncooked meat is cut on a cutting board before other foods such as vegetables are also prepared there, the bacteria can easily contaminate the vegetables. Separate cutting boards and knives should be used for the different food items in order to avoid bacterial contamination.
Proper cooking temperatures can kill bacteria and viruses that could otherwise cause food poisoning. For example, pork may contain the viral round worm Trichinella spiralis, which causes the food-borne illness trichinosis. If pork is properly cooked through, the chances of contracting trichinosis are very rare.