What is food poisoning? Food poisoning is a general term for a wide variety of diseases that are caused by ingesting food or beverages that contain toxins or are contaminated with harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses or parasites. Food poisoning is also known as food-borne illness. Every year 48 million Americans suffer from food-borne illnesses. Food poisoning typically causes irritation and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that resolves within a few days. Food poisoning can be severe and lead to serious complications in some cases. Food poisoning can often be prevented by taking simple hygiene and food preparation precautions. Types of food poisoning The most common form of food poisoning is salmonellosis, which is caused by Salmonella bacteria. Other common types of food poisoning and their causes include the following: Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Campylobacteriosis is caused by Campylobacter bacteria. Cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium enteritis) is caused by Cryptosporidium protozoa. Escherichia coli food poisoning is caused by eating food or beverages contaminated with certain types of E. coli bacteria (for example, E. coli O157:H7). Listeriosis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Mushroom poisoning is caused by eating raw or cooked poisonous mushrooms. Shigellosis is caused by Shigella bacteria. Staphyloenterotoxicosis is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. Many types of food poisoning are spread through food or beverages that have been contaminated with human or animal feces that contain infectious bacteria, viruses or parasites. Common sources of foods contaminated with infectious microorganisms include undercooked eggs, chicken, and poultry, or any undercooked or raw food that comes from animals, such as seafood, meat, milk, and dairy products. Any food or beverage can become contaminated with infectious microorganisms that cause food poisoning if it is handled by an infected person with unwashed hands or if it comes in contact with contaminated food or liquids. Food poisoning can result in serious, potentially life-threatening complications, including dehydration, organ damage, meningitis, sepsis, stillbirth, and chronic arthritis. Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms, such as vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea and suspect that you have food poisoning. Early diagnosis and treatment can minimize discomfort and the risk of complications and help prevent the spread of food poisoning to other people. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of food poisoning and a decrease in alertness or lack of urination.