Food intoxication, food poisoning, food intoxication

Intoxication, food poisoning

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The term food poisoning refers to a gastrointestinal disease caused by food / nutritionally ingested toxins. These toxins are toxins derived from bacteria, fungi, plants, metals or their compounds or marine animals.

Epidemiology / frequency distribution

Food poisoning by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens ( enterotoxin producers ) are relatively common, but have an even higher dark figure.
Food poisoning by Clostridium botulinum in Germany, thanks to appropriate food hygiene, now only affects 10 to 30 people per year.

In general, the collection of figures on the incidence of food poisoning is difficult because on the one hand many cases are not reported, on the other hand, the suspicion of intoxication / food poisoning is already indicated.


Poisoned foods as a cause of food poisoning

Food poisoning is caused by oral ingestion of toxins ( toxins ). These can have the following origin:

  • bacteria
  • mushrooms
  • plants
  • Metals / metal compounds
  • Fish / shellfish

The toxin-producing bacteria include, for example, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens and Clostridium botulinum . Their poisons are often included, for example, in milk or egg products, meat, fish or mayonnaise (potato salad).

Examples of fungal toxins causing food poisoning are amatoxin (including green tuber-leaf fungus), muscarine (fly agaric) or orellanin (including orange-furred roughneck). Toxins contained in plants include atropine, scopolamine or solanine, for example from nightshade plants. Food poisoning metals include arsenic or lead.

Tetrodotoxin of puffer fish (among others), saxitoxin of some mussels and ciguatoxin of certain unicellular organisms ( dinoflagellates ) belong to poisons of marine animals, which may cause food poisoning.


The diagnosis of food poisoning is made by the physician primarily on the basis of the history and the clinical picture. Anamnestic evidence of food poisoning is when several people complain of the same symptoms that have been eating together within the last 16 hours.

Under certain circumstances, a proof of the corresponding toxin in the ingested food can succeed. In botulism, additionally, vomit, stool, serum and gastric juice may be examined for the existence of the toxin to diagnose food poisoning.


Therapy of food poisoning

Be treated food poisoning by water and electrolyte replacement. For some bacterial pathogens antibiotics can be given. Also antidote for certain toxins is a treatment option, such as the administration of chelators in lead poisoning.

The treatment of botulism involves a gastrointestinal emptying to remove the toxin from the intestine. In addition, to bind the botulism toxin free and render it harmless, an antitoxin is added.

If a respiratory paralysis has already occurred, the patient is also ventilated.

compulsory registration

Overall, all poisoning cases must be reported to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.

In addition, according to the Infection Protection Act, bacterial food poisoning in persons working in the food sector is notifiable. Even in the case of epidemic occurrence, ie with at least 2 patients, the attending physician must notify the health department.

The obligation to register for botulism includes suspicion, illness and death in all patients.


Food poisoning

In order to prevent the triggering of food poisoning , attention should be paid to food hygiene ( expiration dates, sufficient heating, cooling ). In addition, food should be freshly prepared and consumed immediately afterwards without a long wait. The contents of bombarded canned food should not be consumed as it may contain botulism toxin .


Food poisoning occurs as a result of the absorption of certain toxins ( toxins ) with food and can have various causes ( bacteria, fungi, plants, metals, marine animals ). In addition to gastrointestinal complaints ( complaints in the gastrointestinal tract ) such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, the symptoms of poisoning include symptoms that are characteristic of the respective toxin.

Food poisoning is diagnosed on the basis of the history as well as the clinical picture; The therapy is aimed primarily at balancing the loss of water and electrolyte associated with poisoning. In addition, in some cases an antidote ( antidote ) may be given or further measures may be initiated depending on the toxin.

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