Food poisoning results from ingestion of food contaminated with chemicals (insecticides, methyl alcohol), micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, algae) or its toxins (e.g. ciguatera poisoning). It includes ingestion of food containing natural toxins (e.g. puffer fish and poisonous mushrooms) but does not include food allergies.
The commonest identified bacterial pathogens causing food poisoning in Singapore are Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella spp (non-typhoidal), Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Bacillus cereus and E.coli.
Varies from hours to days depending on organism and dose (see table).
Generally not contagious but person-person transmission can occur with poor personal hygiene via faecal-oral transmission, if the infectious dose of the causative agent is low.
There were 211 notifications of food poisoning involving 1599 cases in 2009 compared with 136 notifications and 1252 cases in 2008.
In December 2003/Jan 2004, 305 cases of norovirus gastroenteritis were reported in
14 separate outbreaks in different parts of Singapore. It was traced to the consumption of imported half-shelled chilled oysters.
In Nov/Dec 2007, an outbreak of 216 cases of salmonellosis caused by S. enteritidis was traced to the consumption of cream cakes produced in a factory and distributed to various retail outlets. In April 2009, there was an outbreak caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which was believed to be due to cross-contamination between Indian “rojak” and raw seafood ingredients harbouring the bacteria. A total of 154 cases, including 2 deaths were reported, with 48 cases hospitalised.