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Information for Consumers About Food Poisoning in Home Canning, Preserving, Jam, Salsa Making, Etc. - Causes and Prevention

Information for Consumers About Food Poisoning in Home Canning, Preserving, Jam, Salsa Making, Etc. - Causes and Prevention

These pages provide basic facts regarding foodborne pathogenic microorganisms and natural toxins related to home food preservation (canning, bottling, drying, jams, salsas, pickling, sauces, etc.). Look up any pathogen (botulism, salmonella, Staph, etc.) and find out what it does and how to prevent it. The information was prepared by the Food & Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service, and the National Institutes of Health. And while I certainly wouldn't trust my health or safety to the government (does peanut butter ring a bell), their guidance is good.  Do what they say... not what they do!

Pathogenic bacteria in foods

Food illnesses - Key Facts

The chart below includes foodborne disease-causing organisms that frequently cause illness in the United States.. Symptoms range from relatively mild discomfort to very serious,life-threatening illness. While the very young, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk of serious consequences from most foodborne illnesses, some of the organisms shown below pose grave threats to all persons.


Common Name and Sources  of Illness

Onset Time After Ingesting

Signs & Symptoms


Detailed Food Sources

Bacillus cereus B. cereus food poisoning
Common in  rice and leftovers, as well as sauces, soups, and other prepared foods that have sat out too long at room temperature.
10-16 hrs Abdominal cramps, watery diarrhea, nausea 24-48 hours Meats, stews, gravies, vanilla sauce
Campylobacter jejuni Campylobacteriosis 2-5 days Diarrhea, cramps, fever, and vomiting; diarrhea may be bloody 2-10 days Raw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk,contaminated water
Botulism - only grows in anaerobic environments, that is containers that are sealed or otherwise exclude air, such as imersed in oil. 12-72 hours Vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, double vision, difficulty in swallowing, muscle weakness. Can result in respiratory failure and death Variable Improperly canned foods, especially home-canned vegetables, fermented fish, baked potatoes in aluminum foil
Perfringens food
poisoning - commonly found on raw meat and poultry. It prefers to grow in conditions with very little or no oxygen, and under ideal conditions can multiply very rapidly
8 to 16 hours Intense abdominal cramps, watery diarrhea Usually 24
Meats, poultry, gravy, dried or precooked foods, time and/or temperature-abused foods
Cryptosporidium Intestinal
cryptosporidiosis. You hear about hikers drinking from streams getting this.
2-10 days Diarrhea (usually watery), stomach cramps, upset stomach, slight fever May be remitting and relapsing over weeks to months Uncooked food or food contaminated by an ill food handler after cooking, contaminated drinking water
Cyclosporiasis 1-14 days, usually at least 1 week Diarrhea (usually watery), loss of appetite, substantial loss of weight, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fatigue May be remitting and relapsing over weeks to months Various types of fresh produce (imported berries, lettuce, basil)
E. coli
(Escherichia coli)

producing toxin
E. coli infection
(common cause of
"travelers' diarrhea")
1-3 days Watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, some vomiting 3-7 or more days Water or food contaminated with human feces
E. coli O157:H7 Hemorrhagic colitis
or E. coli O157:H7 infection. beef, but even organically grown vegetales and fruit get contaminated from feces, and manures used as fertilizer.
1-8 days Severe (often bloody) diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Usually, little or no fever is present. More common in children 4 years or younger. Can lead to kidney failure. 5-10 days Undercooked beef (especially hamburger), unpasteurized milk and juice, raw fruits and vegetables (e.g. sprouts), and contaminated water
Hepatitis A Hepatitis 28 days average (15-50 days) Diarrhea, dark urine, jaundice, and flu-like symptoms, i.e., fever, headache, nausea, and abdominal pain Variable, 2 weeks-3 months Raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler; shellfish from contaminated waters
Listeriosis - you hear about this commonly from lunch meat contamination. 9-48 hrs for gastro-intestinal symptoms, 2-6 weeks for invasive disease Fever, muscle aches, and nausea or diarrhea. Pregnant women may have mild flu-like illness, and infection can lead to premature delivery or stillbirth. The elderly or immunocompromised patients may develop bacteremia or meningitis. Variable Unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, ready-to-eat deli meats
Noroviruses Variously called viral gastroenteritis, winter diarrhea, acute non- bacterial gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and food infection. This is the virus that made news on cruise ships lately. 12-48 hrs Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, fever, headache. Diarrhea is more prevalent in adults, vomiting more common in children. 12-60 hrs Raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler; shellfish from contaminated waters
Salmonella Salmonellosis.  Common in chicken, eggs and other poultry. Must be cooked to 165 F through to kill it. 6-48 hours Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting 4-7 days Eggs, poultry, meat, unpateurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables
Shigella Shigellosis or Bacillary dysentery
Commonly seen in Third World restauramnts, child-care settings and schools. Shigellosis is a cause of traveler's diarrhea, from contaminated food and water in developing countries. People with shigellosis shed the bacteria in their feces. Getting just a little bit of the Shigella bacteria into your mouth is enough to cause symptoms.
4-7 days Abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea. Stools may contain blood and mucus. 24-48 hrs Raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler
Staphylococcus aureus Staphylococcal food poisoning 1-6 hours Sudden onset of severe nausea and vomiting. Abdominal cramps. Diarrhea and fever may be present. 24-48 hours Unrefrigerated or improperly refrigerated meats, potato and egg salads, cream pastries
Streptococcus Strep - . The main cause of this infection lies in poor handling and preservation of cold salads, usually those which contain eggs and are prepared some hours before serving. . A shorter incubation period and a higher attack rate (51-90%) than in transmission by droplets was noted  symptoms such as sore throat, pharyngeal erythema, and enlarged tonsils, submandibular lymphadenopathy are more frequent than coughing and coryza. 24-48 hours  The epidemics tend to occur in warm climates and in the hottest months of the year. Streptococcus pyogenes seems to originate from the pharynx or hand lesions of a food handler
V. parahaemolyticusinfection
Contaminated seafood.
4-96 hours Watery (occasionally bloody) diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever 2-5 days Undercooked or raw seafood, such as shellfish
Vibrio vulnificus V. vulnificusinfection - Eating raw oysters can increase the chance you will get sick with vibriosis. That's because Vibrio bacteria thrive in coastal waters where oysters are harvested 1-7 days Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloodborne infection. Fever, bleeding within the skin, ulcers requiring surgical removal. Can be fatal to persons with liver disease or weakened immune systems. 2-8 days Undercooked or raw seafood, such as shellfish (especially oysters)

Recommendations to Prevent Food Illnesses

  • Keep cold food, at or below 40 °F, in the refrigerator, in coolers, or in containers on ice.
  • Limit the time coolers are open. Open and close the lid quickly. Do not leave coolers in direct sunlight.
  • Keep foods served hot at or above 140 °F, in chafing dishes, warming trays, slow cookers or on the grill. You can keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the safe recommended temperatures.
  • Never leave food between 40 and 140 ˚F for more than two hours.  If the temperature is above 90 °F, food should not be left out more than one hour.

Clean: Make sure to always wash your hands and surfaces with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before cooking and after handling raw meat or poultry during cooking. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and work spaces with soap and warm water too. If you plan to be away from the kitchen, pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

Separate:  When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don't put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.

Cook: Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of burgers, steaks, chicken, and foods containing meat or poultry.

  • Hamburgers, sausages and other ground meats should reach 160 °F.
  • All poultry should reach a minimum temperature of 165 °F.
  • Whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal, and of beef should be cooked to 145 °F as measured by a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, and allowed to rest for three minutes before eating. A "rest time" is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from a grill, oven, or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens.
  • Fish should be cooked to 145 °F.
  • Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, and by using a food thermometer you can be sure items have reached a safe minimum internal temperature needed to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Chill: After a cookout, place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze immediately. Discard food left in the Danger Zone too long. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

For more information about food safety, call FDA's Food Information Line at: 1-888-SAFEFOOD or submit your inquiry electronically. The line is open Monday through Friday 10AM to 4PM EST except for Thursdays 12:30PM to 1:30PM EST and Federal Holidays.


All of the following subjects below are covered in the FDA's "Bad Bug Book", which is a free PDF, available to download here:

The links below no longer work; use the pdf link above.

E. Coli Bacteria - common on vegetables and meats that come in contact with manure or animal feces - Enterovirulent Escherinchia Coli Group (EEC Group)


Parasitic Microorganisms (Protozoa) and Worms


Natural Toxins (Not all that is "natural" is good for you!)

Other Pathogens

  • Prions (BSE, CJK - Mad Cow Disease)