Clostridium perfringens is widely present in the environment, and often occurs in the intestines of humans and many animals. C. perfringens is one of the most common foodborne illnesses in the United States. Institutional foodservice areas such as school cafeterias, hospitals, and nursing homes are primary targets for populations of the organism.
In most cases, the cause of C. perfringens is improper attention to temperature in foods such as meat and gravy. If proper temperatures are neglected, small numbers of C. perfringens will survive cooking. The remaining organisms multiply to infectious levels during cool down and storage.
The common form of C. perfringens illness may be identified 8 to 22 hours after consumption when severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea begin. Typically, the illness is over after 24 hours, but additional symptoms may continue in some individuals for one to two weeks. Further complications rarely occur.