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Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illnesses (sometimes called foodborne disease, foodborne infection, or food poisoning) are common, costly, and preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food every year.

Foodborne illness is caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing microbes or pathogens can contaminate foods, so there are many types of foodborne illnesses. Most foodborne diseases are infections caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Sometimes foodborne disease is caused by harmful toxins or chemicals. Symptoms vary depending on the cause of the infection. Usual symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, body aches and diarrhea.

Many foodborne pathogens can also be acquired through recreational or drinking water, from contact with animals or their environment, or through person-to-person spread.
Anyone can get food poisoning, which is why it is important to protect yourself. It is important to understand foodborne illnesses and healthy food handling practices so you can take action if necessary.
Foodborne illnesses are caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages that contain a wide variety of bacteria, viruses, toxins, or parasites. Some foods are contaminated before they reach a kitchen. Others are contaminated by food handlers. In most cases, foodborne illness contamination can be prevented by good food handling practices.

The Federal government estimates that 48 million Americans suffer from a foodborne illness every year, while 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.

Currently, the top five pathogens in the United States that cause foodborne illness are:
  • Norovirus
  • Salmonella
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Campylobacter
  • Staphylococcus aureus
There are other germs that don't cause quite as many outbreaks as the top five, but when they do occur, they are more severe and likely to lead to hospitalization. They include: Clostridium botulinum, Listeria, Escherichia coli (E. Coli), and Vibrio.
Common symptoms of foodborne diseases include nausea, vomiting, fever, body aches, and diarrhea. Symptoms may differ depending on the type of foodborne diseases. It is important to remember that after consuming a contaminated food or beverage, it can take hours or days for the symptoms to appear. For many healthy individuals, foodborne illness may only last several hours to several days. However, symptoms can be severe and some foodborne illnesses can be life-threatening, requiring medical attention. Food poisoning can happen to anyone, however, those that are more likely to get sick and to have a more severe case include:
  • Children
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • People with weakened immune systems

Most people with a foodborne illness get better without medical treatment and by staying hydrated, but people should see their medical provider if any of the following severe symptoms are present:
  • High fever (temperature over 101.5F)
  • Bloody stools
  • Frequent vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down and/or staying hydrated
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Diarrheal illness that lasts more than three days

If you think you got sick from something you ate, report it using the Utah Department of Health, I Got Sick Foodborne Illness Complaint System.
Take action to protect yourself and your loved ones by keeping food safe. Here are five simple steps to food safety:
  • Clean food-preparation surfaces and wash your hands often.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
  • Don't cross-contaminate. Germs can spread even after you've cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly. It is best to keep foods such as raw meat, poultry or eggs separated from other foods, like fruits and vegetables.
  • Cook food to the right temperature. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Keep your refrigerator below 40F and refrigerate foods promptly. Germs can start to grow in foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them (during the summer heat, cut that time down to one hour). Check the FoodKeeper webpage to learn the best way to store foods and beverages, how to keep them fresh, and when to throw them away.
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The Utah EPHT Network receives restaurant safety data from the from the Environmental Sanitation Program in the Bureau of Epidemiology at the Utah Department of Health. Salmonella, Campylobacter and Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli data comes from the Disease Respone, Evaluation, Assessment and Monitoring Program in the Bureau of Epidemiology at the Utah Department of Health.
The links listed below redirect you to health assessments that have been conducted in Utah that are relevant to foodborne illness.

The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sun, 22 May 2022 16:21:15 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Tue, 26 Feb 2019 16:28:01 MST