Foodborne Intoxications – Clostridium Perfringens

This organism most frequently associated with gas gangrene is also a major cause of food poisoning. However, this intoxication is a little different than those caused by Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus where the ingestion of preformed toxin causes the illness.

With C. perfingens intoxication is due to a toxin mediated infection where the ingested bacteria colonize in the intestinal tract and subsequently produce their toxin.

Almost all outbreaks are associated with inadequately heated or reheated meats, usually stews, meat pies, and gravies made from beef, turkey or chicken.

Outbreaks of Clostridium perfringens food poisoning are usually trace to catering firms, restaurants, cafeterias and schools with inadequate cooling and refrigeration facilities for large-scale service.

After a period of 8 to 22 hours, this intestinal disease is characterized by a sudden onset of colic followed by diarrhea and nausea. Vomiting and fever are not usually present.

It is generally a mild disease lasting about 24 hours or less. It is rarely fatal in otherwise healthy people.

However there is a more severe disease caused a different strain of C. perfringens (type C strains). This disease can cause necrotic enteritis which is frequently fatal. Also known as pig-bel syndrome, this strain can cause necrosis of the intestine and can go septic.

In order to prevent getting Clostridium perfringens food poisoning the following steps should be taken:

o Serve meat dishes hot or cool them by refrigerating till serving.
o Large cuts of meat must be thoroughly cooked.
o For more rapid cooling of large dishes like stews, divide the stew into several smaller, shallower containers and refrigerate.