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Causes of Food Poisoning

29 March 2024

Whilst Easter can be a truly enjoyable and joyous occasion, at the same time it can easily  turn sour due to various causes of food poisoning.


Bacterial Causes of Food Poisoning

While viruses cause some food poisoning cases, most result from bacterial contamination. Bacteria are tiny living structures that can only be seen with a microscope. Most bacteria are harmless but some can cause disease. If present in food, some of these disease-causing bacteria can cause food poisoning.

Where are these bacteria found and how do they get onto food? They are found everywhere; in soil and water as well as on people, animals and food.

Raw products, especially raw meats, poultry and fish, may contain dangerous bacteria. Bacteria on raw foods may then be transferred onto other food such as cooked or ready-to-eat foods during food preparation or storage. This is called cross-contamination.

People carry bacteria on and in their bodies, on their hands, face, nose and in their stomachs. Food handlers can transfer bacteria onto food if they don’t wash their hands after using the toilet or if they touch their faces or hair while preparing the food. Customers, like food handlers, can contaminate food by sneezing or touching food on display.

Pests such as insects, pets, birds and rodents can all carry bacteria and may contaminate any food they touch.

Dirty food premises harbour bacteria on dirt and food particles which can contaminate the food being prepared.


Cross-Contamination as a Cause of Food Poisoning

Cross-contamination – Food handlers who handle food incorrectly during preparation can spread bacteria and contaminate food directly by:

  • Letting raw food touch cooked or ready-to-eat food.
  • Letting blood or juices from raw food drip onto other food.

Food handlers may also spread bacteria and contaminate food indirectly by:

  • Handling cooked or ready-to-eat food immediately after handling raw food, without washing hands.
  • Using equipment such as knives, kitchen utensils and chopping boards for the preparation of cooked and ready-to-eat foods after preparing raw food, without cleaning the equipment.
  • Placing cooked or ready-to-eat food on counter tops where raw food has been, without cleaning and disinfecting the work surface.
  • Using the same dish cloth for different work surfaces or using dirty cloths.

You can find further useful information on preventing food poisoning and other food safety relevant information on the FSAI and SafeFood websites.


Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email

eLearn Online Health and Safety Training

eLearn Online Health and Safety Training