This type of illness is caused by toxins. Under favorable conditions certain bacteria produce chemical compounds called toxins, which, if ingested, cause food intoxication. Staphylococcus is the most commonly reported food intoxication.
The staphylococcus germ is found in the throat, on the skin in pimples and boils, and in great abundance in the postnasal drip of people recovering from colds. Consequently, the most prevalent carrier of food intoxication is foodservice personnel. People with any of these symptoms must not be allowed to work in food preparation spaces in any capacity.
Foods most associated with outbreaks of staphylococcus are pork products and fowl. Ham is also susceptible to staphylococcus poisoning and must not be sliced too far in advance of serving unless properly refrigerated.
Other foods commonly involved are potted meats, fish, cheese, milk products (including cream- and custard-filled pastries), and potato and macaroni salads. Foods can contain sufficient toxin to cause food poisoning and yet have no odor of spoilage and no abnormal taste. Even when food has been properly refrigerated, it can become contaminated by bacteria while it is being prepared or while it is standing in the galley before it is served.
Botulism is a second type of food intoxication. This disease, usually fatal, is caused by the toxin produced by the rod-shaped bacterium called clostridium botulinum. Botulinum organisms are found in the soil and gain access to foods through contact with soil, dust, and possibly water.
The foods most often responsible for botulism are either canned or fermented foods in which the preserving process has not succeeded in destroying the bacteria in the food. The botulinum grows and multiplies in an airtight container. However, when cans are damaged, leak, bulge, or are sprung, the contents are presumed to be unsafe.
The botulinum organisms sometimes produce a gas and cheesy odor in food, but the absence of these signs does not necessarily mean that the bacteria are not present.
This type of food illness is caused by microorganisms such as the salmonella, shigella, and clostridium species and the streptococcus, bacillus, and typhoid fever bacteria. A large percentage of food infections are transmitted by foods that have been allowed to remain at room temperature for a prolonged period of time.
The great majority of outbreaks of food infection is caused by meat (poultry, particularly turkey) and meat mixtures. For this reason, poultry dressing should not be served as a leftover. Other foods that may be involved are custards, milk cream, ice cream, seafood, meat, eggs, meat products, shellfish, salads, mayonnaise, salad dressings, poultry dressing, bread puddings, cream pies, eclairs, and filled pastries.
These microorganisms are transmitted to the food by personnel who are sick or carriers and who are allowed to handle food in the food preparation area. Salmonellosis
Salmonella bacteria are transmitted by foods, usually from undercooked or semicooked raw foods, or from foods that have become infected after cooking by persons who are harboring the bacteria. Since salmonella bacilli leave the body through the intestinal tract, the main source of salmonella infection is people who do not wash their hands after leaving the head. Consequently, they contaminate all the food they handle. Also, mice, rats, and cockroaches may contaminate food by dragging filth over food and food utensils, or by intestinal deposits that are brushed off into food or containers.
While no specific foods may be said to be responsible for salmonellosis, the ones most likely to harbor the salmonella bacilli are (1) those that are usually eaten raw such as salads and greens; (2) cooked leftover foods that are not reheated thoroughly; (3) foods that are undercooked, especially poultry and uninspected meats; and (4) infected eggs that are eaten raw or undercooked. See "Safe Egg-Handling Guidelines" in chapter 1 of NAVMED P-5010.
Infections such as septic sore throat and scarlet fever are transmitted by contaminated milk and by certain other foods, including meat, meat products, and dressings. One type of this infection also causes a gastrointestinal disturbance. Floor dust is one of the modes of transmission.
Typhoid fever is transmitted by milk, shellfish, or water supplies that have become polluted with the urine or feces of a person harboring the organism of this disease. It is also spread by human carriers and flies that transport the typhoid bacteria from soiled articles to foods, dishes, and cooking utensils.
Bacillus dysentery is transmitted by contaminated foods or water, by human carriers, or by flies. The bacilli of this disease are found in the bowel discharges of infected persons.
Infectious hepatitis is a form of liver disease with symptoms of general discomfort. Jaundice, often characterized by skin yellowing, and other signs of liver injury are sometimes present. The disease is highly contagious. Drinking water or unsanitary conditions and flies or other biting insects may transmit the infectious material.