Staphylococcal food poisoning
Foodborne illnesses

Food Safety


Staphylococcal food poisoning is one of the most commonly reported illnesses in the United States. Staphylococcal poisoning is an intoxication; it is caused by toxins that are produced by the staph. bacteria. When a person consumes food that is contaminated with staph. toxins, that person becomes ill from the toxin, not the bacteria. Deaths are rare and the duration of the illness usually lasts only one or two days. However, sometimes the intensity and severity of the symptoms require hospitalization.


Staphylococcal food poisoning is usually characterized by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, prostration, cramps, subnormal temperatures and lowered blood pressure. Symptoms appear within 30 minutes to 7 hours (2-4 hours is most common) after eating the contaminated food, and may last for up to 24-48 hours.


Humans are the most common source, but cows, dogs and fowl also can be a source. It is estimated that 40-50% of healthy adults carry staph. bacteria in nasal passages, throat, hands and skin. These bacteria also are found in infected cuts, boils, burns, abrasions and pimples.

Mode of Transmission

By ingestion of a food product contaminated with the toxin produced by the staph. bacteria. Contaminated ready-to-eat, high-protein foods such as meat, poultry and dairy products subjected to temperature abuse are the most common source of this illness.


  • Food-protection education

  • Good personal hygiene with an emphasis on handwashing and minimal food handling
  • Food stored at proper temperatures
  • Cool potentially hazardous foods to 41ºF within 6 hours (145ºF-70ºF in 2 hours and 70ºF-41ºF in an additional 4 hours.)
  • Potentially hazardous foods at room temperature should be discarded after 4 hours
  • Temporary exclusion of food handlers with cuts, abrasions, pimples, boils or upper respiratory symptoms


FDA’s Bad Bug Book


National Restaurant Association