Staphylococcus Aureus


Staphylococcus aureus is the most resistant bacteria among the non-spore-forming pathogens. It can cause food poisoning. This bacterium is very common in the environment; It can be found in soil, water, and air, and on everyday objects and surfaces. 

Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus can cause food poisoning. This bacterium is very common in the environment; It can be found in soil, water, and air, and on everyday objects and surfaces. Staphylococcus aureus can live in humans and animals, as well. It is also the most resistant bacteria among the non-spore-forming pathogens. Staphylococcus aureus also is found in foods and can make and release toxins. Although the bacteria are destroyed when cooking, the enterotoxin might not be killed by heat. The toxins make the symptoms appear 1 to 7 hours after ingesting the bacteria. Versatile foods are linked to staphylococcal food poisoning, especially ready to eat products. Food poisoning is often related to temperature abuse and food handling. This pathogen is a concern in hospitals and is one of the reasons for nosocomial bacteremia and postoperative infections. S. aureus may lead to toxic shock and increasing of T-cells in the blood. 

Reservoirs & Transmission


Staphylococcus aureus is often called “Staph” for short. This bacteria can cause food poisoning. It is very common in the environment; it can be found in soil, water, air, and on objects and surfaces. It can also live in humans and animals.
The bacteria is found in foods and can make toxins- called enterotoxins- The bacteria itself can be destroyed by heat when cooking at the recommended temperature but the enterotoxins might not be destroyed by cooking.


These enterotoxins may cause nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, the toxins can cause dehydration, headache, muscle cramps, and temporary changes in blood pressure and heart rate (as the result of fluids loss). The illness usually is intense, but normally lasts from just a few hours to a day. The toxins are fast‐acting; they cause symptoms within 1 to 7 hours after contaminated food is eaten.

Susceptible Populations

Everyone is susceptible to staphylococcal intoxication and the intensity of symptoms may be different.


Keep Clean: Wash your hands before, during and after handling food. Wash utensils, cutting boards, and any surfaces that food touches and wash with hot soapy water after each use. Wash fruits and veggies with running tape water. Use paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces.

Separate Raw and Cooked: Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils for raw (uncooked) produce and raw (uncooked) meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Keep meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods while shopping and in the refrigerator.

Cook Thoroughly and Keep Food at Safe Temperature: Only a food thermometer can make sure meat, poultry, fish, and casseroles are cooked to a safe internal temperature. For example, internal temperatures should be 145°F or 63°C for whole meats (allow the meat to rest after cooking for 3 minutes at least) and fish, 160 °F or 71°C for ground meats, and 165°F or 74°C for all poultry. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.

Chill: Use appliance thermometers to be sure your refrigerator is at or below 40ºF or  4°C and your freezer is 0ºF (-17.78°C) or below. Between 40ºF or 4°C and 140ºF or 60°, C is the Danger Zone, when bacteria can multiply rapidly. Generally, the more bacteria, the more likely someone will get sick. Most refrigerators have just a colder/ warmer adjustment, so the only way to know is to put a thermometer inside.

Thaw Food Properly: Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the countertop. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or the microwave should be cooked immediately.

Use Safe Water and Raw Material: Always use safe water or treat it before use.

Hand Washing

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
  • Use Hand Sanitizer When You Can’t Use Soap and Water. Sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations. Keep in mind, that sanitizers do not kill all types of germs. If your hands are visibly dirty, soap them then use a sanitizer. They also might not remove chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals from your hands.

The presented information is an extract from the Guidelines for the Investigation and Control of Disease Outbreaks. Porirua: Institute of Environmental
Science & Research Limited; Updated 2011