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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

Most commonly, food poisoning is a reaction to food or water contaminated during improper cooking, handling or storage. The most common contaminants are bacteria, such as salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli. Other contaminants include viruses, parasites and toxins. Food poisoning usually leads to abdominal cramping, vomiting and diarrhea.

Food poisoning, although common, often can be prevented easily. An estimated 85% of food-poisoning incidents can be prevented by handling and preparing food properly. Usually, symptoms subside within a day or two. However, in some cases, food poisoning is quite dangerous.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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