Staphylococcus aureus and its food poisoning toxins: characterization and outbreak investigation

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2012 Jul;36(4):815-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2011.00311.x. Epub 2011 Nov 8.


Staphylococcal food poisoning (SFP) is one of the most common food-borne diseases and results from the ingestion of staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs) preformed in food by enterotoxigenic strains of Staphylococcus aureus. To date, more than 20 SEs have been described: SEA to SElV. All of them have superantigenic activity whereas half of them have been proved to be emetic, representing a potential hazard for consumers. This review, divided into four parts, will focus on the following: (1) the worldwide story of SFP outbreaks, (2) the characteristics and behaviour of S. aureus in food environment, (3) the toxinogenic conditions and characteristics of SEs, and (4) SFP outbreaks including symptomatology, occurrence in the European Union and currently available methods used to characterize staphylococcal outbreaks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Staphylococcal Food Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Staphylococcal Food Poisoning / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / genetics
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Toxins