Bacillus cereus

Every person is potentially vulnerable to Bacillus cereusB. cereus food poisoning is the common description, though there are two recognized types of the illness: diarrheal and emetic (vomiting).

The diarrheal type of illness is caused by a large protein, and can be brought on by contaminated meats, milk, vegetables and fish. Symptoms such as watery diarrhea and abdominal cramps begin 6 to 15 hours after consumption, and persist for 24 hours. Nausea may also occur, but vomiting is a rare accompaniment to the symptoms in the diarrheal type of B. cereus illness.

The emetic type of illness is recognized 30 minutes to 6 hours after consumption when both nausea and vomiting occur. Generally, symptoms persist less than 24 hours. Emetic-type outbreaks are associated with rice, potato, pasta, and cheese products. This type of food poisoning is sufficiently diagnosed by the rapid onset time to symptoms, coupled with evidence of contamination in the food.

No specific complications of diarrheal and emetic toxins have been identified.  However, other clinical manifestations have been observed including: bovine mastitis, severe infections, gangrene, septic meningitis, cellulitis, panophthalmitis, lung abscesses, infant death, and endocarditis.


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  • Article History
    • Revision Date: 6/22/2010

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The most commonly used utensil in food production is the preparer's hands, which is why proper and timely handwashing is essential to preventing foodborne illness. Hands should be washed before preparing food; after taking a break; after using the restroom; after sneezing, coughing or using a tissue; after touching any part of the body; and before putting on single-use gloves.

Source: Iowa State University Extension

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