Clostridium welchii type A is a common agent of food poisoning when allowed to proliferate to large numbers in cooked foods, usually meat and poultry. The main factors of importance are survival of the spores, frequently found on raw products, through the cooking process, and possible contamination of cooked meats transferred to unclean containers; subsequent germination of spores and rapid multiplication of the vegetative cells during long slow cooling and non-refrigerated storage lead to heavy contamination. The toxin responsible is different from the soluble antigens, and its formation in the intestine is associated with sporulation.
Large numbers of Cl. welchii of the same serological types in food and faeces is the main diagnostic factor. Important preventive measures are rapid cooling and cold storage to prevent growth.
Bacillus cereus is an aerobic sporulating organism commonly found in cereals. Outbreaks described from Europe have a different aetiology with regard to food vehicles, incubation period and symptoms from those that have been reported recently in the U.K. from fried and boiled rice. The spores survive through cooking procedures and grow out to cells which sporulate readily in the cooked food and which are assumed to produce toxin in the food. Large numbers of B. cereus are found in foods causing illness and, as with Cl. welchii, the main preventive measure is inhibition of growth by quick cooling and cold storage of foods cooked ahead of requirements. A comparative table of the characteristics and clinical symptoms of Cl. welchii and B. cereus is given.
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