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Clostridium perfringens

‚ÄčLast updated: 22 December 2020

What is it? 

  • Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens) is a type of bacteria widespread in the environment and in the gut of people and animals.
  • It can form spores and toxins that are not destroyed by cooking or boiling.
  • Foods at higher risk of contamination include meat and poultry, thickened sauces (gravies, etc) and pre-cooked foods, especially spiced and herbed dishes.

What's the risk?

  • C. perfringens can cause gastro illness.
  • Anyone can get sick with C. perfringens but vulnerable people (i.e. young children, pregnant women, the elderly) and people with weak immune systems (like cancer patients) can get seriously ill.

Reduce your risk

  • Cook food thoroughly and serve it immediately or keep it hot (60oC or hotter) before serving
  • Cool cooked food quickly if it is going to be stored and used later:
    • put it in the fridge (or freezer) as soon as it stops steaming
    • divide large amounts of hot food into smaller containers to let it cool faster
  • Make sure your fridge is running at 5oC or colder
  • Leftovers in the fridge should be eaten within 3-4 days (or within 1 day for vulnerable people)
  • Reheat cooked food quickly with a microwave or stovetop (to 75oC)
  • Wash your hands with soap and dry them before preparing and eating food
  • Keep your kitchen and equipment clean

Symptoms of illness

  • Symptoms usually start 6 to 24 hours after eating contaminated food and common symptoms include abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and fever.
  • Most people have mild symptoms and recover within a day or less.

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