Clostridium Perfringens

Clostridium perfringens is a bacteria that causes food poisoning, especially in cooked food that is kept warm in steam tables such as those in cafeterias and buffets. Because outbreaks of Clostridium perfringens tend to occur in hospitals, school cafeterias, nursing homes and prisons, it is sometimes referred to as the "cafeteria germ."

Where Clostridium Perfringens Is Found

The Clostridium perfringens bacteria can be found in the intestinal tracts of animals and humans, and also in sewage, as well as dust and soil that have been contaminated with feces.

Clostridium perfringens is an anaerobic bacteria, which means that it grows only in environments where there is little or no oxygen. It is similar to Clostridium botulinum in this regard.

How Clostridium Perfringens Is Transmitted

The reason Clostridium perfringens is transmitted through cafeterias and other high-volume food service kitchens is that the bacteria can reproduce rapidly in food that sits in steam tables or at room temperature for a long period of time.

Although the Clostridium perfringens bacteria itself is destroyed by cooking, some toxin-producing spores created by the bacteria can survive the cooking process. That's why holding cooked food in a steam table allows the bacteria to multiply. Cooked meats, stews, gravies, and beans are common vehicles of Clostridium perfringens outbreaks.

Clostridium Perfringens Symptoms

Symptoms of Clostridium perfringens poisoning include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and dehydration.

Diarrhea and pain can appear within eight to 24 hours after eating the contaminated food. The symptoms usually last about a day, which is why people who are sickened by Cl. perfringens often say believe they've suffered from a "24-hour flu." In some cases, less severe symptoms can persist for a week or two, particularly in the very young, the very old and others with compromised immune systems.

You can read more here about food poisoning symptoms.

Preventing Clostridium Perfringens

Because Clostridium perfringens contamination occurs specifically in cooked foods in foodservice settings, preventing contamination from Cl. perfringens requires minimizing the amount of time that food spends in the food temperature danger zone. This, in turn, requires the foodservice workers to monitor the temperature of the food. If the temperature of the drops below 140°F, it needs to be reheated to 165°F to kill any bacteria. Also, food shouldn't be held on the buffet line for more than four hours, even when proper temperatures are maintained.

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