Thedifference between food intoxication and food infection

Foodintoxication is an illness caused by toxins present in contaminatedfood. The toxin may be a poisonous chemical toxin which isaccidentally or intentionally added, or a naturally occurring poisonlike solanine in green potatoes or a toxic metabolite excreted bybacteria (LeLoir, Baron &amp Gautier, 2003). In bacterial food poisoning, thetoxin is produced during the multiplication of cells. When food isconsumed, the toxin already present irritates the lining of thestomach and causes vomiting. If toxins reach the intestine, it maycause abdominal pain and diarrhoea (p.65). The incubation period forsuch food poisonings is comparatively shorter than for bacterial foodinfections.

Foodinfection, on the hand, is an illness caused by microorganisms. Itresults from the consumption food that contains living bacteria whichare multiplying and capable of producing disease (Roday,2009). The illness which results is the reaction of the body to thepresence of micro-organisms or their metabolites. The gastric juicesecreted in the stomach is acidic and destroys some bacteria. In thesmall intestine, the PH is neutral and the bacteria multiply rapidly.This irritates the lining of the intestines, resulting in nausea,diarrhoea and abdominal pains. The incubation period of the infectionis 12 hours or more. For bacterial food poisoning to take place,approximately one million or more bacteria must be present in food(Le Loir, Baron &amp Gautier, 2003). It is likely that food could becontaminated with several hundred causative bacteria. If conditionsof growth are favourable, these bacteria could multiply to over onemillion in a short span of three to four hours (p.69).

Differencesin symptoms

Food intoxication

Food infection

Symptoms: nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, usually no fever

Symptoms: diarrhoea, abdominal pain, vomiting, fever.

Duration: one day, sometimes longer

Duration: one to seven days, sometimes longer.

It is caused by a toxin

It is caused by micro-organisms

Incubation period two hours

Incubation period: 12-24 hours

Ifleft untreated, both conditions can cause massive dehydration or evendeath.


LeLoir, Y., Baron, F., &amp Gautier, M. (2003). Staphylococcusaureus and food poisoning.Genet Mol Res, 2(1), 63-76.

Roday,S. (2009). Hygieneand sanitation in food industry.New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill.