The Difference Between Food Poisoning and the Stomach Flu

Krystal Clark

| 2 min read

Woman Feeling Sick While Eating Bad Food in a Restaurant
Did you know food poisoning is more common in the summer? The warm weather acts as a breeding ground for bacteria to grow and thrive. Here’s everything you need to know about foodborne illnesses and how to prevent them.
What causes food poisoning? Food poisoning occurs when a foreign organism such as bacteria, a parasite, virus or toxin contaminates food. This can happen at any stage of its production or handling. A person can become ill two to six hours after consumption.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning? Food poisoning primarily effects the digestive system and can cause bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms may be accompanied by dizziness, fatigue, chills, headache, sweating or fever.
What’s the difference between food poisoning and stomach flu? The stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) is caused by a specific virus that’s transmitted person-to-person or through contaminated food and water. The incubation period for the virus occurs 24 to 48 hours after initial exposure.
What are symptoms of the stomach flu? Like food poisoning, the stomach flu targets the digestive system, specifically the gastrointestinal tract. A person may experience nausea, vomiting, indigestion, diarrhea, as well as fatigue, headache, dehydration and weight loss.
How do you prevent foodborne illness?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following steps to reduce the risk of food contamination and viral transmission.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Also, clean and disinfect any surfaces used during food preparation including countertops, dishes or cutlery.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meats, eggs and seafood away from other items. Store these foods in separate departments of the refrigerator or freezer, keeping juices isolated and contained.
  • Thoroughly cook food at a temperature high enough to kill germs. Most whole cuts of beef, pork, veal and lamb require 145 degrees Fahrenheit, while poultry, such as ground chicken and turkey should be cooked at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Store your food within two hours of purchasing or opening. In warmer temperatures (90 degrees and above), food should be put away within one hour. For optimal freshness, keep items refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Photo credit: nicoletaionescu

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