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Food Poisoning, all causes

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Reporting Obligations

Confirmed and suspected cases shall be reported to the local Health Unit.

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Aetiologic Agent

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is illnesses that are acquired through the consumption of contaminated food or water, but are not directly specified by Regulation 135/18 as a Disease of Public Health Significance. Food poisoning includes foodborne infections and intoxications caused by Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens, scombroid fish poisoning and ciguatera fish poisoning. However, other agents such as heavy metals, chemicals, toxins, parasites, fungi, and viruses such as noroviruses, and rotaviruses may also be reported here.

Clinical Presentation

Symptoms vary depending on the causative agent. Symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Modes of Transmission

Foodborne or waterborne.

Incubation Period

Typically short, (30 minutes–24 hours), but may be longer, depending on the agent.

Period of Communicability

Varies depending on the agent.

Risk Factors/Susceptibility

General susceptibility.

Diagnosis and Laboratory Testing

Diagnosis is made by laboratory tests on specimens, usually stool, or through the identification of the causative organism and/or its toxin in food.

Advise patient to keep leftover food portions if available for testing by local health unit.

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Treatment and Case Management

Treatment is under the direction of the attending health care provider. Collect stool culture and provide treatment recommended for causative agent.

For those presenting with diarrhea, advise patients that they may be excluded from activities in high-risk settings such as healthcare, food handling, and daycare until 24–48 hours after diarrhea resolves, OR symptom free for 48 hours after discontinuing use of anti-diarrheal medication.

Provide information on prevention strategies for food poisoning (safe food handling, hand hygiene).

Patient Information

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Additional Resources

Government of Canada. “Food Safety”.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency. “Causes of Food Poisoning.”

Health Canada. “Natural Toxins”.


Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Infectious Diseases Protocol, 2022.