Food Poisoning, all causes

Reporting Obligations

Suspected cases must be reported immediately by phone to the Thunder Bay District Health Unit at 625-8318 or toll-free 1-888-294-6630, ext. 8318 (Monday-Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm). After hours and on weekends/holidays call Thunder Bay Answering Service at (807) 624-1280.


Aetiologic Agent:

Food poisoning refers to a category of enteric diseases that are acquired through the consumption of contaminated food or water but are not directly specified by Regulation 559/91 as a Reportable Disease. Food poisoning includes foodborne infections and intoxications caused by Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens, scombroid fish poisoning and ciguatera fish poisoning. However, other agents such as heavy metals, chemicals, toxins, parasites, fungi, and viruses such as noroviruses, and rotaviruses may also be reported here.

Clinical Presentation:

Symptoms vary depending on the causative agent and may include vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and allergic-type reactions following ingestion of the implicated food.

Modes of transmission:

Foodborne or waterborne.

Incubation Period:

Typically short, (30 minutes to 24 hours), but may be longer, depending on the agent.

Period of Communicability:

Varies depending on the agent.


Risk Factors/Susceptibility

All persons are susceptible.


Diagnosis & Laboratory Testing

Diagnosis is made by laboratory tests on specimens, usually stool, or through the identification of the causative organism and/or its toxin in food. Advise patient to keep leftover food portions if available for testing by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

Testing Information & Requisition


Treatment & Case Management

Treatment is under the direction of the attending health care provider. Collect stool culture and provide treatment recommended for causative agent.

For those presenting with diarrhea, advise patients that they may be excluded from activities in high-risk settings such as healthcare, food handling, and child care until 24-48 hours after diarrhea resolves, OR symptom-free for 48 hours after discontinuing use of anti-diarrheal medication.

Provide information on prevention strategies for food poisoning (safe food handling, hand hygiene).

Patient Information

Patient Fact Sheet



  1. Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Infectious Diseases Protocol, 2016. Appendix A (2017) and Appendix B (2014)


Additional Resources

  1. Government of Canada. “Food Safety”.
  2. Canadian Food Inspection Agency. “Causes of Food Poisoning.”
  3. Health Canada. “Natural Toxins”.
Last Updated: 12/11/2018