Symptoms and Signs of Food Poisoning

Symptoms and Signs of Food Poisoning

Signs and symptoms of food poisoning may include one or more of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness that may lead to respiratory arrest as in the case of botulism
Symptoms and Signs of Food Poisoning

Symptoms may appear within 2 hours of eating the contaminated food or they may begin days later. Generally, the sickness lasts from 1 to 10 days.

The source, time of onset of symptoms, symptoms and the associated foods are tabulated below:

PathogenTime between eating and onset of symptomsSymptomsAssociated foods*
Bacillus cereus toxin (vomiting)1 - 6 hoursSudden onset of severe nausea and vomitingImproperly refrigerated cooked rice
Bacillus cereus toxin (diarrhea)6 - 24 hoursAbdominal cramps, nausea and watery diarrheaMeats, stews, gravy, vanilla sauce
Campylobacter2 - 5 daysFever, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea (sometimes bloody)Raw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk and contaminated water
Clostridium perfringens toxin6 - 24 hoursAbdominal cramps, watery diarrhea and nauseaMeats, poultry, gravy, dried or precooked foods
Escherichia coli (STEC)2 - 10 days more commonly 3 - 4 daysDiarrhea (often bloody), abdominal crampsImproperly cooked beef, unpasteurized milk and juice, sprouts and contaminated water
Hepatitis A2 - 7 weeksJaundice, fatigue, loss of appetite, nauseaRaw or poorly cooked seafood harvested from contaminated waters, ready-to-eat foods handled by an infected food handler
Listeria monocytogenes3 days - 10 weeksMeningitis, sepsis, feverSoft cheeses, unpasteurized milk, ready-to-eat deli meats
Norovirus24 - 48 hoursFever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and headachePoorly cooked shellfish, ready-to-eat foods touched by an infected worker
Salmonella6 – 72 hours,usually 12-36 hoursHeadache, fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and nauseaUndercooked poultry, raw egg deserts and mayonnaise, sprouts, tahini
Staphylococcus aureus toxin30 min – 8 hoursSudden onset of vomiting and abdominal crampsCream deserts and pastries, potato salad
Vibrio parahaemolyticus4–30 hours, usually 12-24 hoursNausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and watery diarrheaUndercooked or raw seafood.


It is necessary to seek medical attention in case of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent episodes of vomiting or vomiting blood
  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Fever higher than 101.5 degrees F (38.6 degrees C)
  • Excessive thirst or dry mouth, little or no urination, dizziness and severe weakness
  • Severe diarrhea for more than 3 days
  • Trouble swallowing or difficulty speaking
  • Double vision
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