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Clostridium perfringens


Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Family and Consumer Sciences

1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1295


Not the 24 hour flu


Barbara Rohrs


What is Clostridium perfringens?

Clostridium perfringens is one of the bacteria that make people sick. Clostridium perfringens bacteria are found in soils, the intestines of humans and animals, and sewage. Any raw food may contain spores or the bacteria. The bacterium, Clostridium perfringens, grows anaerobically. That means it will only grow where there is little or no oxygen. At temperatures between 70 and 120 degrees F, little or no air, and high moisture, the spores can produce the toxin.

What are the symptoms of Clostridium perfringens poisoning?

Intense abdominal pain and diarrhea begin 8 to 22 hours after eating foods that contain these bacteria. The illness is usually over within 24 hours but less severe symptoms may last longer for some people - especially very young or older people. Dehydration can occur with this type of foodborne illness. Many times, people confuse this foodborne illness with the "24-Hour Flu."

Is Clostridium perfringens poisoning common?

Clostridium perfringens is one of the most commonly reported foodborne illnesses. Sometimes it is called the "food service germ" because food served in quantity and left for long periods on a steam table or at room temperature can cause this illness. Many times dozens of people become sick from a common source, especially where large quantities of food are prepared several hours before serving.

What causes Clostridium perfringens poisoning?

In most instances, poor temperature control is the cause of this foodborne illness. Small numbers of the organism may still be present after cooking. When food is kept between the temperatures of 70 and 140 degrees F, and air and moisture levels are right, these organisms will produce the toxin that will make people sick. Meats, meat products, and gravy are the foods most frequently causing the illness.

How can I prevent Clostridium perfringens poisonings?

Thoroughly cook foods with meat-like stews, soups and casseroles. Keep hot foods hot (above 140 degrees F) and cold foods cold (below 40 degrees F). If you have a large portion of food leftover, divide it into smaller portions not over three inches deep to refrigerate so it cools quickly. Reheat foods to at least that 165 degrees F.


  1. National Center for Disease Control, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

  2. U.S. FDA, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook, The Bad Bug Book.
  3. U.S. FDA Center For Food Safety & Applied Nutrition, MMWR 43 (8): 1994 Mar 04
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