Everything You Need To Know About Food Poisoning

Learn about the causes, symptoms, and prevention of food poisoning. Understand ways to keep your food safe and how to manage food poisoning symptoms.

By URLife Team
14 Apr 2023

Food poisoning is a common yet serious health concern that affects millions of people in India every year. According to a 2018 report by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, around 1.5 million cases of food poisoning are reported in India annually. The report also highlights that foodborne diseases cause more than 1,00,000 deaths in the country every year.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) estimates that every year, around 20 million cases of acute diarrheal disease are reported in the country, with most of them being caused by contaminated food and water.

One of the major causes of food poisoning in India is the consumption of street food. A 2018 study conducted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) found that over 40 per cent of street food samples tested were contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. Additionally, the study found that the hygiene and sanitation practices of street food vendors were inadequate, leading to a high risk of foodborne illnesses.

Given the high incidence of food poisoning in India, it is crucial to take preventive measures such as ensuring food safety, promoting hygiene and sanitation practices, and increasing awareness among the public. By doing so, we can reduce the incidence of food poisoning and improve public health.


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Symptoms of Food Poisoning

The symptoms of food poisoning can range from mild to severe and can occur within hours or days after consuming contaminated food or water.

Nausea and Vomiting

One of the most common symptoms of food poisoning is nausea and vomiting. This occurs when your body tries to get rid of the toxins or bacteria that have entered your system. The vomiting may be severe and can lead to dehydration if not treated immediately.



Diarrhoea is another common symptom of food poisoning. It is usually accompanied by abdominal pain, cramping, and bloating. The diarrhoea may be watery or bloody (in case of severe food poisoning) and can last for several days.



A fever is a sign that your body is fighting off an infection. In the case of food poisoning, the fever is usually low-grade but can be high in some cases.


Abdominal Pain and Cramping

Abdominal pain and cramping are common symptoms of food poisoning. The pain can be severe and may be accompanied by bloating, gas, and a feeling of fullness.



A headache is another symptom of food poisoning. It may be mild or severe and can be accompanied by dizziness, lightheadedness, and fatigue.


Weakness and Fatigue

Weakness and fatigue are common symptoms of food poisoning. They occur as a result of the body's effort to fight off the infection.



Dehydration is a serious complication of food poisoning. It occurs when the body loses too much fluid as a result of diarrhoea and vomiting. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, thirst, dark urine, and fatigue.


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Causes of Food Poisoning

The causes of food poisoning can vary, but they are typically associated with poor food hygiene practices, contamination during food processing or handling, or food storage practices that promote bacterial growth. Here are the most common causes of food poisoning and how to prevent it.


Bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning. They are found everywhere, including the air, water, soil, and on animals and plants. When food is contaminated with bacteria, it can cause serious illness. Some of the most common types of bacteria that cause food poisoning include Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, and Listeria.



Viruses can also cause food poisoning. Norovirus is a common virus that causes food poisoning. It can spread quickly and easily from person to person, and contaminated food can also cause an outbreak.



Parasites are organisms that live on or inside another organism, and they can cause food poisoning. Parasites such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium can be found in contaminated food and water and cause severe symptoms.



Toxins are harmful substances that can cause food poisoning. They can be produced by bacteria, such as in the case of botulism, or they can be found in contaminated fish, such as in the case of ciguatera.



Chemicals can also cause food poisoning. Pesticides, cleaning agents, and other chemicals can contaminate food and cause serious illness.


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Preventive Measures of Food Poisoning

The best way to prevent food poisoning is to practice good food hygiene. This includes washing your hands frequently, keeping food at the correct temperature, cooking food thoroughly, and storing food correctly. Here are some tips to prevent food poisoning:

  • Wash your hands: Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food.
  • Keep food at the correct temperature: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Do not leave food at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Cook food thoroughly: Make sure that food is cooked to the appropriate temperature. Use a food thermometer to ensure that food is cooked to the correct temperature.
  • Store food correctly: Store food in a clean, dry, and cool place. Keep raw food separate from cooked food to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Be careful when eating out: Be cautious when eating out, and choose restaurants that follow good food hygiene practices.


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Treatment of Food Poisoning

Rest and hydration

The first step in treating food poisoning is to rest and stay hydrated. Dehydration is a common complication of food poisoning, so it is important to drink plenty of fluids, including water, sports drinks, and clear broths. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and dairy products, which can aggravate your symptoms. If you are experiencing severe vomiting and cannot keep liquids down, you may need intravenous fluids.



Medications can be used to treat specific symptoms of food poisoning. For example, anti-diarrheal medication can be used to reduce diarrhoea, while antiemetic medication can be used to control nausea and vomiting. Antibiotics may also be prescribed in some cases of bacterial food poisoning, such as Salmonella or E. coli infections. However, it is important to note that antibiotics are not effective against viral food poisoning, such as norovirus. So, it is important to consult a healthcare professional before taking any medicines.


Natural remedies

Several natural remedies can help alleviate the symptoms of food poisoning. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help reduce nausea and vomiting. Peppermint tea can also help soothe the digestive system and reduce cramping. Activated charcoal can absorb toxins and help reduce diarrhoea. Probiotics can help restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut.



Prevention is the best way to avoid food poisoning. Always practice good food hygiene, such as washing your hands before and after handling food, cooking food thoroughly, and storing food at the proper temperature. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, as well as unpasteurised dairy products. If you suspect that you have food poisoning, avoid preparing food for others until your symptoms have resolved.


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Foods to Eat And Avoid

While it's important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have food poisoning, there are also some dietary changes you can make to help manage your symptoms.

Clear Liquids

When you have food poisoning, it's important to stay hydrated. Clear liquids such as water, clear broths, and electrolyte drinks can help to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Sip small amounts of liquid frequently, rather than drinking large amounts all at once.



Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can help to soothe an upset stomach. You can try drinking ginger tea or chewing on a small piece of fresh ginger root.



Bananas are easy to digest and can help to replace lost potassium, which is often depleted during bouts of vomiting or diarrhoea. They are also a good source of fibre, which can help to regulate your digestion.


Plain Crackers

Plain crackers or toast can help to settle your stomach and provide some much-needed energy. Avoid butter, jam, or other spreads, which can be harder to digest.



Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help to restore the balance of bacteria in your gut. Yoghurt, soybean milk, and other fermented foods are good sources of probiotics.


Avoid Spicy or Fatty Foods

Spicy or fatty foods can irritate your stomach and make your symptoms worse. Avoid anything that is greasy, fried, or heavily seasoned.


Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate you and exacerbate your symptoms. Avoid coffee, tea, soda, and alcoholic beverages until you are feeling better.

When you have food poisoning, it's important to stay hydrated and stick to bland, easy-to-digest foods.


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Diagnosis of Food Poisoning

  • Symptom Assesment: The first step in diagnosing food poisoning is to look for symptoms. The symptoms of food poisoning can vary depending on the type of bacteria or virus that caused it. However, common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, and fever. If you have these symptoms after eating contaminated food, it's likely that you have food poisoning.
  • Medical History: Your doctor will also ask you about your medical history to help diagnose food poisoning. They will ask you about your recent meals, any recent travel, and if anyone else in your household is experiencing similar symptoms. This information can help your doctor identify the source of the contamination and determine the type of bacteria or virus that is causing your symptoms.
  • Stool Sample: Your doctor may also ask you to provide a stool sample. This sample will be sent to a laboratory to test for bacteria or viruses that may be causing your symptoms. The laboratory will look for specific pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, or Campylobacter.
  • Blood Test: In some cases, your doctor may order a blood test to diagnose food poisoning. This test will look for antibodies that your body produces in response to the bacteria or virus that is causing your symptoms.
  • Imaging Tests: In rare cases, imaging tests such as CT scans or X-rays may be necessary to diagnose food poisoning. These tests can help identify any complications that may have arisen from the infection.

To reduce the incidence of food poisoning in India, it is essential to educate people on safe food handling and storage practices, promote hygienic food preparation and cooking methods, ensure access to clean water, and regulate the use of harmful chemicals in food production.


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