Staph Infections and Foodborne Illness

What is Staphylococcus aureus?

Staphylococcal food poisoning is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus or “Staph”. Staphylococcal food poisoning should not be confused with Staph Infections or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) although they are all caused by the same family of bacteria.

Staph Infections affect the skin and symptoms can range from rashes or boils all the way to flesh-eating outbreaks. Due to the high use of antibiotics in the United States, staph infections sometimes turn into more serious cases of MRSA or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. MRSA has similar symptoms to regular staph infections but the difference is that over time, MRSA grew resistance against antibiotics that were once able to destroy it.


Symptoms of Staphylococcus aureus Food Poisoning

Staph exists in a large portion of humans and animals with no consequences. However, staph multiplies easily in food due to its resistance to heat and salt. Carriers of the bacterium may contaminate foods if they do not wash their hands properly and touch foods to be served to others. Foods often associated with staph aureus infections are cold, ready to eat foods, sandwiches, and bakery products that contain cream. The bacterium itself is not what causes the food poisoning but rather a toxin that is produced if the bacteria multiplies. Most healthy adults will not become infected easily and those who are infected do not become carriers and cannot infect others.

  • Diarrhea
  • Nasuea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Mild fever

Staphylococcus aureus food poisoning shows symptoms 1 to 6 hours after initial contact with contaminated food and the illness lasts between 24 to 48 hours. Treatment for staphylococcus aureus include drinking plenty of liquids and to rest.


Staph aureus Prevention

  • If you have an infection in your sinus or eyes, do not prepare food for others.
  • Sanitize kitchens and food preparation areas thoroughly and often.
  • Wash hands properly by using soap and washing under fingernails before handling food.


Staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria that can lead to food poisoning but can also turn into a much more severe illness. If you suspect you have contracted MRSA symptoms, contact a doctor immediately. For more information on the bacterial or viral causes of this foodborne illness, please visit our Food Poisoning page.