Key message: Bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning cases in Hong Kong. Pathogenic bacteria can make people sick and cause food safety problems. These bacteria can invade the human body or produce toxins that can lead to foodborne illnesses. Food poisoning symptoms could be developed after ingesting a sufficient amount of the bacteria or their toxins after an incubation period (i.e. the period of time between consuming food containing bacteria/toxins and the onset of symptoms).

Common bacteria that cause food poisoning

Bacteria Usually found in Common sources of food poisoning
Salmonella Widely distributed in domestic and wild animals such as poultry, pigs and cattle; and in pets, including cats, dogs, birds and reptiles such as turtles Inadequately cooked meat, meat products, poultry, raw milk, raw eggs and egg products (e.g. puddings).
Staphylococcus aureus Throat, nasal cavity, skin, cuts and wounds Food contaminated by food handlers with skin infection or nasal carriers, especially food involving manual handling and no reheating afterwards (e.g. sandwiches, cakes and pastries).
Vibrio parahaemolyticus Seafood Inadequately cooked seafood, cooked food cross-contaminated by raw seafood.
Clostridium perfringens Soil, sewage, dust, faeces of animals and humans and animal-origin feed Meat and meat products that are cross-contaminated, inadequately cooked or being kept at inappropriate temperature for a prolonged period of time (e.g. stews and Lo-shui food).
Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli
In the intestines of humans and other mammals Contaminated water, undercooked and contaminated food (e.g. ground beef, hamburger, roast beef, unpasteurised milk, cheese, vegetables, juice, yoghurt, etc.)
Listeria monocytogenes Natural environment such as water and soil. Refrigerated ready-to eat and frozen foods (e.g. frozen meat, meat sauces, prepared and stored salads, raw seafood, smoked seafood, unpasterurized milk and foods made from unpasteurized milk).

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