May 28, 2024

What Are the Long Term Consequences of Food Poisoning?

Since 48,000,000 Americans are sickened with food poisoning every year, it’s a safe bet to say that every American has had food poisoning at least once during their life. We are all aware of the symptoms of these illnesses, from E. coli O157:H7 to Salmonella to Listeria monocytogenes. But when you recover, should you still be concerned?

What are the long term consequences of food poisoning?

Yes. All of these illnesses can lead to long term consequences. And each pathogen has its own set of health issues that can arise weeks, months, or years after recovery. That’s why it’s a good idea to have these illnesses recorded on your medical chart.

E. coli O157:H7

This pathogen can cause the most serious illness. If a person contracts this infection, they may develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure. Shiga toxins produced by certain strains of E. coli, including O157, O21, O26, and others. The toxins attack red blood cells and destroy them. The dead cells travel to the kidneys, where they can clog tiny tubes and cause kidney failure.

Long term consequences of a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection include kidney failure, sometimes necessitating dialysis or a transplant, high blood pressure, chronic colon inflammation, diabetes, and even heart disease or a stroke later in life.


Salmonella infections are usually self-limiting, that is, people will recover without medical treatment. In fact, so few people see a doctor after this type of food poisoning that scientists have assigned a multiplier number to Salmonella outbreaks of 29. That means that 29 times more people than are counted in an outbreak are likely ill.

The major long term consequence of a Salmonella infection is Reiter’s syndrome. That syndrome can cause reactive arthritis, irritation of the eyes, and joint pain. Salmonella patients can also develop irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, and endocarditis later on.

Listeria monocytogenes

This pathogen causes serious illness. It’s not a common cause of food poisoning, but when it happens the results can be devastating. Pregnant women can suffer miscarriages and stillbirth, and the newborn can be born infected. Listeria infections can also cause seizures, blindness, deafness, paralysis, and retardation in infants.


Campylobacter bacteria can cause serious illness. About 11% of all patients who contract this infection are hospitalized. But it’s the long term effects of a Campylobacter infection that are of greatest concern.

Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome is the most common health issue caused by a Campylobacter infection. This syndrome causes the body’s immune system to attack the nervous system, and can lead to paralysis. Fortunately, about 70% of these patients do recover with intensive medical care and therapy. Recovery may take up to 2 to 3 years.

Campylobacter patients can also develop Reiter’s syndrome.


This pathogen can trigger Reiter’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease, after a patient has recovered. Shigella infections are typically linked to swimming in contaminated water or drinking contaminated water or milk.

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