Staphylococcus aureus, also known as ‘Golden staph’, is important from both a medical and food perspective. About half of us carry this organism in our skin and nasal passages. If you have an infected cut or sore, it can contain large numbers of Staph. Keep any cuts or sores well covered if you are handling foods.
Animals and poultry also carry this bacteria on their bodies and all raw meat and poultry products should be handled as though they are contaminated. Raw milk can also be a source of this bacteria. It likes to grow in salty and sweet foods, for example those containing custard, hams, frankfurters, salads, cream-filled bakery products etc.
The important thing to remember is that Staphylococcus aureus produces a heat stable toxin as it grows and it is the toxin that makes you sick. If it is allowed to grow in food the toxin will remain even if the food is cooked again. The toxin takes only a very short time to make you sick (one to six hours) and causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea as the usual symptoms.