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Diseases & Topics

Bacillus cereus

Bacillus cereus bacteria cause two types of food-borne illness: diarrheal and vomiting.

The symptoms of B. cereus diarrheal-type food poisoning are much like those of C. perfringens food poisoning. The onset of watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain occurs six to 15 hours after consumption of contaminated food. Nausea may accompany diarrhea, but vomiting rarely occurs. Symptoms persist for 24 hours in most instances. A wide variety of foods — including meats, milk, vegetables, and fish — have been associated with B. cereus diarrheal-type food poisoning.

B. cereus vomiting-type outbreaks have generally been associated with rice products. However, other starchy foods such as potato, pasta and cheese products have also been implicated. Food mixtures such as sauces, puddings, soups, casseroles, pastries and salads have frequently been incriminated in B. cereus food poisoning outbreaks.

For Additional Information

  • FDA: Bad Bug Book External link - Primarily technical, this handbook also provides consumer-focused "snapshots" with basic information about the major known bacteria, viruses, parasites and natural toxins that cause foodborne illness and how to avoid getting sick.
  • NC DHHS: Public health management of enteric illnesses - Outbreak management information for businesses, facilities, institutions and other community environments.