Staphylococcal Food Poisoning

staphylococcal aureus

Food poisoning

Staphylococcal food poisoning is caused by staphylococcal enterotoxin produced by some strains of Staphylococcal aureus, a gram positive bacteria.It can cause a wide variety of diseases such as bacteremia, pneumonia, osteomyelitis, skin infections and food poisoning. This discussion is focused on food poisoning only.

This is the leading cause of gastroentiritis. The organism is often an inhabitant of the nasal passages from which it contaminates the hands. It is also a frequent cause of skin lesions on the hands. From these sources, it can readily enter food. If the microbes are allowed to incubate in the food, a situation called temperature abuse, or reproduction and release of enterotoxin into the food.

The incubation period is 1 to 7 days.

Events which may lead to outbreaks of staphylococcal intoxication:

  1. Cooking foods rich in protein
  2. Food handlers have staphylococcal growth on bare hands which may be transmitted to the food
  3. Organisms incubate in the food long enough to form and release toxins
    *Reheating will eliminate staphylococci but not the toxin.
    The toxin is heat stable and can survive up to 30 minutes of boiling. Therefore, once the toxin is formed, it is not destroyed when the food is reheated, although the bacteria will be killed.
  4. Food with the toxin is ingested.
  5. Intoxication occurs in one to six hours or days

Pathophysiology: Once the toxin has been ingested, it quickly triggers the brain’s vomiting reflex center; abdominal crapms and usually diarrhea then happens.

Physical Findings:

  1. diarrhea
  2. abdominal cramping
  3. excessive salivation
  4. nausea


  1. Physical examination according to presenting signs ans symptoms. Short incubation time characteristic of intoxication.
  2. Blood, sputum, vomitus, feces and spinal fluid
  3. Contaminated food (usually contaminated are custards, pastries, salads, ham and other foods rich in carbohydrates and protein)

Medical Management:

  1. Use of Penicillin G – drug of choice; cephalosporin as substitute drug
  2. Culture and sensitivity test is done for cases with resistance to Penicillin-resistant strains

Nursing Management:

  1. Administer prescribed medications, which include antipyretics and antibiotics.
  2. Provide health education as well as encourage compliance to the whole course of antibiotics
  3. Practice proper hand washing regularly
  4. Observe good personal hygiene
  5. Teach clients to refrain from eating left over foods, especially foods rich in carbohydrates and protein

Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

What Do You Think?