Pathogen: Clostridium perfringens - bacteria


Symptoms may include:

  • abdominal bloating and increased gas
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • muscle ache
  • nausea
  • profuse, watery diarrhea
  • severe abdominal pain and stomach cramps

Start of symptoms / how long they last

Symptoms of C. perfringens may occur within 6 to 24 hours after eating contaminated food. The usual onset time is 10 to 12 hours.

Most symptoms subside within 24 hours. However, some can last for up to two weeks.

Potential health impacts

C. perfringens are a spore-forming bacteria. They are found in soil, dust, sewage, and human and animal intestines. If consumed, these spores produce toxins (poison) in the intestinal tract, which can make you sick.

Food commonly associated

A wide variety of food can become contaminated with C. perfringens. Typically this bacterium will grow in foods that are high in starch or high in protein, such as cooked beans, meat products, thick soups, and gravy. Leftovers that aren't cooled and reheated properly may contain a lot of the bacteria.

The toxins are most commonly associated with foodborne illness, which can happen where food is

  • made in large amounts, then allowed to cook slowly for several hours before consumption, and is
  • allowed to cool slowly or is improperly refrigerated

This pattern is common in cafeterias, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons.

How to protect yourself

  • Refrigerate all leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly.
  • Very hot items can first be cooled at room temperature. Refrigerate once steaming stops.
  • Leave the lid off or wrap loosely until the food is cooled to refrigeration temperature.
  • Avoid overstocking the refrigerator to allow cool air to circulate freely.
Ordinary cooking will not kill C. perfringens spores because some strains can survive at the boiling point (100°C or 212°F) for up to an hour.
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