By EatingWell Editors, "5 Guests You Never Want to Have for Dinner,"September/October 2009
Bacteria found in some meat, poultry and eggs that, if undercooked, can cause illness. Salmonella lives in animals’ intestinal tracts, and is usually transmitted through contaminated animal feces. In eggs, salmonella infects the ovaries of hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed.
Charges: Plaguing people with fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea, often beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or drink and lasting four to seven days.
Bacteria found in soil and water. It has shown up in uncooked meats, vegetables, cold cuts and unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses.
Charges: Hitting your body hard—fever, muscle aches and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. It may take up to three weeks after eating the food to become ill. Infants who survive listeriosis may have long-term neurological damage.
Bacteria found mostly in meat (particularly beef) or produce contaminated with feces harboring the bacteria, and in unpasteurized (raw) milk and untreated water too. The most common form is E. coli 0157:H7—the rest of the group of E. coli bacteria are mostly harmless.
Charges: Causing people to double over with diarrhea (often bloody), severe stomach cramps and vomiting. May also cause a low fever or pneumonia. Symptoms show up within two to five days of eating the contaminated food and most infections are mild, but about 5 to 10 percent of people develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening condition characterized by anemia, acute renal failure and low platelet count.
Spore-forming bacteria that’s in soil and water and produces a nerve toxin that causes botulism. It is often found in improperly home-canned foods with low acid content, such as asparagus, green beans, beets and corn. It also thrives in foods that are moist, left out at room temperature and/or have little exposure to oxygen; as a result, it has been found in honey, chopped garlic in oil and improperly handled baked potatoes wrapped in foil. Damaged canned goods are particularly vulnerable.
Charges: Tricking people with early flulike symptoms, such as lethargy and muscle weakness, then bringing about double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and dry mouth. Symptoms usually appear 12 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food. Left untreated, symptoms may progress to irreversible paralysis.
Spiral-shaped bacteria that’s mostly associated with raw or undercooked poultry because it grows best at birds’ body temperature. Sometimes found in unpasteurized milk.
Charges: Punching people in the stomach with diarrhea (possibly bloody) and vomiting lasting up to 10 days (onset is two to five days after exposure). In people with compromised immune systems, the bacteria can spread to the blood. Other complications may include arthritis and Guillan-Barré syndrome.