Definition of Foodborne disease
Foodborne disease: A disease caused by consuming contaminated food or drink. Myriad microbes and toxic substances can contaminate foods. There are more then 250 known foodborne diseases. The majority are infectious and are caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Other foodborne diseases are essentially poisonings caused by toxins, chemicals contaminating the food. All foodborne microbes and toxins enter the body through the gastrointestinal tract and often causes the first symptoms there. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea are frequent in foodborne diseases.
Many microbes can spread in more than one way, so it may not be immediately evident that a disease is foodborne. The distinction matters, because public health authorities need to know how a particular disease is spreading to take the appropriate steps to stop it. For example, infections with Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7) can be acquired through contaminated food, contaminated drinking water, contaminated swimming water, and from toddler to toddler at a day care center. Depending on which means of spread cause a case, the measures to stop other cases from occurring could range from removing contaminated food from stores, chlorinating a swimming pool, or closing a child day care center.
The most common foodborne infections are caused by three bacteria -- Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7 -- and by a group of viruses called calicivirus, better known as Norwalk-like virus:
Common diseases that are usually transmitted by other routes are occasionally foodborne. These include infections caused by Shigella, hepatitis A, and the parasites Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidia. Even strep may be occasionally transmitted through food.
Food toxins -- Some foodborne diseases are caused by a toxin in the food that was produced by a microbe in the food. For example, staph bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) can grow in food and produce a toxin that causes intense vomiting. The rare but deadly disease botulism occurs when the bacterium Clostridium botulinum grows and produces a powerful paralytic toxin in foods. These toxins can produce illness even if the microbes that produced them are no longer there.
Other foodborne diseases -- Among the many other foodborne diseases are the following: amebiasis (Entamoeba histolytica infection), Blastocystis hominis infection, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), cholera, cryptosporidiosis (crypto), cyclospora cayetanensis, diarrheagenic Escherichia coli (E. coli), viral gastroenteritis, giardiasis, listeriosis, marine toxins shigellosis, travelers' diarrhea, trichinosis (trichinellosis), typhoid, Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus infection.
Magnitude of the problem -- An estimated 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur each year in the US alone. The great majority of these cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two. Some cases are more serious, and CDC estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to foodborne diseases each year in the US. The most severe cases tend to occur in the very old, the very young, those who have an illness already that reduces their immune system function, and in healthy people exposed to a very high dose of an organism.Source: MedTerms™ Medical Dictionary
Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012
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