Mayonnaise & Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is defined by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health as a condition caused by ingesting bacteria, parasites or toxins 1. The majority of food poisoning cases are associated with common bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus 1. Many foods are associated with food poisoning, but mayonnaise is one of the most common 1.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is a condition that is often left undiagnosed due to the similarity of its symptoms to an upset stomach 1. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping are all symptoms of food poisoning 1. Symptoms can occur within hours of consuming the contaminated food or could take days to show up.


Mayonnaise is commonly blamed for cases of food poisoning, but a New York Times article places the blame elsewhere 1. According to the article, commercial brands of mayonnaise are very acidic due to the abundance of vinegar and other ingredients. A benefit of the high acidity is spoilage prevention. The article attributes the food-borne illnesses linked with mayonnaise to other factors. Other foods prone to contamination such as chicken or ham top the list. Mixing these foods with mayonnaise can increase the incidence of mayonnaise being linked to food-borne illness. The article also suggests that improper storage and making homemade mayonnaise can increase the likelihood of food poisoning 1.

Risk Factors

Everyone is at risk for contracting a food-borne illness. There are several factors that influence whether or not an individual is at an increased risk of contracting food poisoning 12. According to the Mayo Clinic older adults, pregnant women, infants and young children, and individuals with chronic diseases are more at risk 2. All of these conditions may weaken the immune system thus, putting the individual at a higher risk.


Food poisoning generally resolves itself within a few days 1. Food poisoning can vary in severity and require different forms of treatment 1. Generally speaking, the main focus of treatment is to ease discomfort and avoid dehydration. Fluid replacement is extremely important during treatment. A solution with added electrolytes may be necessary for children due to the amount lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Medical attention may be necessary if fluids cannot be ingested. In such instances, an IV can provide essential nutrients until the temporary illness passes.


With a few simple precautions, preventing food poisoning can be easy 1. The Association for Dressings and Sauces offers simple tips that can ensure food safety. Cleanliness is of utmost importance when dealing with foods. Any surface that comes in contact with foods should be sanitized and cleaned regularly, including hands, utensils and cutting boards. Special care should be taken when using raw meats to wash hands and tools used before and after with both soap and water. Hand sanitizers are convenient for travel and picnics when soap and water may not be available. Another important prevention measure involved preparation and storage of foods. Foods should be cooked to the proper temperature to eliminate any bacteria that might be present. Storing foods at appropriate temperatures is also very important. Hot foods should be kept hot and cold foods should be kept in coolers and on ice, especially when traveling.