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How Long Does Food Poisoning Take?

Sometimes an upset stomach is caused by something other than a foodborne pathogen. But if food is to blame, it can be tricky to pin down the culprit based on time alone.  So, how long does food poisoning take? Find out here from Nutrition Diva.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
June 8, 2013

How Long Does Food Poisoning Take?

Q. I'm an adventurous eater and every once in a while I get an upset stomach. How can I determine what food or drink may have caused the upset? Is it more likely to be something I consumed three hours before? Eight hours before? Is it possible to get food poisoning from cooked food or only fresh foods?

A. Sometimes an upset stomach is caused by something other than a foodborne pathogen. But if food is to blame, it can be tricky to pin down the culprit based on time alone. Some bugs, such as the type you might get from a picnic salad or sandwich spread that sat out for too long, can produce symptoms within a few hours. Salmonella, most commonly found in undercooked poultry and eggs, might take 12 to 24 hours to cause trouble. E. coli, on the other hand, which is often spread via uncooked vegetables, can take several days to incubate before illness sets in. (That’s one of the reasons that it often takes a week or two for health officials to establish the source for E. coli outbreaks.)

See: How to Kill E. coli on Vegetables and Is Raw Milk Safe?

Thorough cooking should kill most foodborne pathogens but remember that cooked food can become re-contaminated as it cools. The “danger zone” for bacterial growth is between 40 and 140 degrees F, so limit the amount of time food spends in this zone. In other words, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until you eat them. Don’t let hot foods cool all the way to room temperature before refrigerating them—stick them in the fridge within two hours of removing from heat.

Although incidences of industrial food contamination get a lot of press, the vast majority of food poisoning happens at home. See these tips on how to keep your kitchen (and food) bug-free.

Related: Why Do I Get Food Poisoning When Others Don’t?

Upset Stomach image from Shutterstock

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