Meat food poisoning

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 27.09.2022

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From the point of view of microbiology, meat is a good breeding ground for undesirable microorganisms, and meat poisoning refers to foodborne toxic infections of microbial etiology, which are caused by a number of enteropathogenic pathogens.


According to statistics, the specific causative agents of food toxic infections in almost half of the cases remain unexplained.

According to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, acute intestinal infections of unknown etiology account for almost 25% of the total number of cases; annually in Ukraine, an average of 30-32 thousand cases of food poisoning are recorded; in 10 years (from 2007 to 2017), about 1,700 residents of the country suffered from botulism.

The global epidemiological situation for foodborne infections associated with Salmonella is considered unfavorable. Thus, according to CDC estimates, in the United States, this bacterium causes about 1.2 million diseases per year (83% food poisoning), although the number of hospitalized patients is approximately 0.52% of all cases, and the death rate does not exceed 0.04%..

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), every year in the EU, doctors register almost 9 million cases of  campylobacter lesions in the gastrointestinal tract .

Causes of the meat poisoning

The key causes  of food poisoning  with meat are associated with infection of the body and bacteremia (the presence of bacteria in the blood) of animals and poultry, the meat of which is used for food after slaughter, or subsequent microbial contamination of the meat. [1]

Bacteria that seed and infect meat and lead to  foodborne illnesses include:

  • coli - Escherichia coli, which remains viable even when meat is frozen and provokes  escherichiosis (coli infection) . Strain O157:H7 is recognized as especially dangerous; [2]
  • salmonella  (Salmonella enterica, Salmonella typhimurium), which can cause poisoning of raw meat, especially minced meat; [3]
  • campylobacter (Campylobacter spp.), in particular, Campylobacter jejuni, found in the body of cattle, pigs, poultry, the meat of which is used for food; causes poisoning with undercooked meat (for example, in cutlets or steaks); [4]
  • spore-forming bacteria of the Clostridium genus Clostridium perfringens; [5]
  • shigella  (Shigella spp.); [6]
  • producing heat-resistant enterotoxins staphylococci (Staphylococcus aureus); [7]
  • the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus cereus; [8]
  • the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, whose spores produce botulinum toxin (in home-made canned meats), which causes  botulism . [9]

With insufficient heat treatment, there may be poisoning with chicken meat, as well as poisoning with smoked meat (pork, beef), if it is infected with  Listeria monocytogenes  , which leads to the development of listeriosis food infection.

E. Coli, Klebsiella oxytococa, Enterobacter, Pseudomonas fragi, Enterobacter, Proteus, Brochothrix thermosphacta, Carnobacterium spp. And other microorganisms that cause spoilage of meat are responsible for poisoning with stale, rotten meat.

In addition to botulism from eating canned crab, poisoning from undercooked crab meat can be caused by Vibrio vulnificus, a halophilic pathogenic bacterium that lives in warm seawater and infects crustaceans and molluscs.

See also -  Causes and causative agents of food poisoning .

Risk factors

In most cases, the risk factors for food poisoning when eating meat are its contamination (contamination) with the above microorganisms:

  • at slaughter, when cleaning and cutting of carcasses is carried out in violation of sanitary rules;
  • in case of violation of the rules of storage and permissible terms for the sale of meat and poultry in supermarkets or markets;
  • in case of non-compliance with the rules for processing and cooking meat (use of dirty dishes and cutting equipment, insufficient heat treatment of raw meat) both in the catering establishments of public catering establishments and in the kitchen of any household.


It should be understood that the pathogenesis of food poisoning is due to bacterial infection of the body - the entry of pathogens into the gastrointestinal tract and the development of an infectious process due to cyto and enterotoxins produced by microbes.

Microorganisms that enter the stomach have enzymes that either rebuild the cytoskeleton of the epithelial cells lining the stomach and intestines of the mucous membrane (which allows bacteria to penetrate the cell), or adhesion of bacteria occurs with damage to the microvilli on the cell surface, which disrupts the ratio between absorption and secretion and leads to diarrhea.

Bacteria multiply, colonize the small and large intestines and secrete compounds toxic to humans - enterotoxins.

In response to bacterial invasion, the level of immunoglobulins (antibodies) rises. In addition, bacterial toxins enter the bloodstream and cause the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines by T cells. And the resulting symptoms of enteritis are the result of activation of the immune system. [10]

Symptoms of the meat poisoning

Symptoms  of meat food poisoning include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea (watery or bloody), chills and fever, crampy abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain, tachycardia, or bradycardia. Due to fluid loss, there is increased thirst and dry mouth.

How long does it take for food poisoning to show up? According to doctors, the first signs, that is, the clinical symptoms of poisoning associated with Escherichia coli, appear two to three hours after eating meat; associated with salmonella - after 12-48 hours, and with campylobacter - on average after three days. Botulinum toxin of Clostridium botulinum bacteria affects the central nervous system (the first sign is diplopia)), which distinguishes the whole complex of symptoms that can manifest themselves both after three hours and after two days. Read more publication -  Botulism - Symptoms .

When ingested, Vibrio vulnificus bacteria cause corresponding symptoms within a day after eating raw or undercooked seafood. [11]

Complications and consequences

The greater the amount of meat eaten, and the more aggressive the enteropathogenic agent of food poisoning, the more serious its consequences and complications can be. In addition, meat can be contaminated with several foodborne pathogens at once.

E. Coli food poisoning can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure in immunocompromised people.

Local complications of food intoxication caused by campylobacter arise due to their spread from the gastrointestinal tract - as a result of bacteremia, and can manifest themselves in the form of cholecystitis, pancreatitis, massive gastrointestinal bleeding, and even peritonitis. Case fatality rate for Campylobacter: one in 20,000 cases.

Diagnostics of the meat poisoning

Detailed information about diagnostic methods and what tests help to identify foodborne pathogens in the materials:

Treatment of the meat poisoning

What is the first aid for meat poisoning, read in the articles:

How the treatment is carried out is discussed in the publications:

The main drugs include sorbents, most often activated charcoal; it is allowed to use other tablets for poisoning.

In severe cases of meat poisoning, with high fever and blood in the feces, or a longer course of the disease, antibiotics are prescribed for intestinal infection.

In mild cases, treatment is carried out at home, and the main thing is to prevent dehydration of the body, which leads to a violation of the water and electrolyte balance; to restore it, rehydrants are used, for example, Regidron.

An alternative treatment is to use  rice water for diarrhea . And how to treat with herbs, read the article -  Infusions and decoctions for diarrhea .


To prevent meat poisoning, you must: [12]

  • purchase high-quality (fresh) beef, pork, chicken, etc., do not buy packaged products with an expired shelf life;
  • use separate cutting boards for animal products and other products, and thoroughly wash kitchen utensils (including utensils and knives);
  • properly cook meat and poultry (sufficient time to boil, fry or stew them) - so that when cut it is not red or pink, and so that bloody juice does not come out (a sign of insufficient heat treatment);
  • store cooked meat or poultry in the refrigerator.
  • do not eat canned meat or canned crab meat from swollen cans.


For most cases of meat poisoning, with proper treatment, the prognosis is favorable. However, in people with immunosuppression, in children and the elderly, the course of the disease can be complicated. A fatal outcome in botulism can only be prevented by the immediate administration of anti-botulinum serum.

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