Many bacteria can cause food poisoning. People who are ill or infected can transmit staphylococcus bacteria to food they are preparing. People who eat or drink contaminated food or water can get travelers' diarrhea, usually caused by the bacterium E. coli. Salmonella poisoning can occur from eating contaminated poultry, eggs, and meat; though potentially fatal, most cases cause only mild discomfort. Harmful bacteria grow in cooked and raw meat and fish, dairy products, and prepared foods left at room temperature too long; dishes made with mayonnaise are notorious culprits.
Canned goods, especially home-canned produce, can harbor a bacterium that needs no oxygen to multiply and is not destroyed by cooking. This bacterium causes botulism, a rare but potentially fatal food poisoning. Infants may develop botulism from eating honey because their immature digestive systems, unlike those of adults, cannot neutralize its naturally occurring bacteria.
Raw seafood, especially contaminated shellfish, may bring on viral food poisoning. Certain mushrooms, berries, and other plants are naturally poisonous to humans and should never be eaten; potato sprouts and eyes also contain natural toxins. Toxic mold can form on improperly stored fruit, vegetables, grains, and nuts. Chemical food poisoning can be caused by pesticides or by keeping food in unsanitary containers.
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