What is food poisoning?

Foodborne illness (sometimes called food poisoning, foodborne disease, or foodborne infection) is common, costly—and preventable. You can get food poisoning after swallowing food that has been contaminated with a variety of germs or toxic substances.

 

Symptoms of food poisoning:

Food poisoning symptoms can be anywhere from mild to very serious. Your symptoms may be different depending on the germ you swallowed. The most common symptoms of food poisoning are:

  • Upset stomach

  • Stomach cramps

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

When to see a physician:

See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms that are severe, including:

  • Bloody diarrhea

  • High fever (temperature over 102°F, measured in your mouth)

  • Frequent vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)

  • Signs of dehydration, including little or no urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up

  • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days

Foods that cause food poisoning:

Some foods are more associated with foodborne illnesses and food poisoning than others. They can carry harmful germs that can make you very sick if the food is contaminated.

  • Raw foods of animal origin are the most likely to be contaminated, specifically raw or undercooked meat and poultry, raw or lightly cooked eggs, unpasteurized (raw) milk, and raw shellfish.

  • Fruits and vegetables also may get contaminated.

  • While certain foods are more likely to make you sick, any food can get contaminated in the field, during processing, or during other stages in the food production chain, including through cross-contamination with raw meat in kitchens.

Other sources of food poisoning:

  • Handling livestock, such as cattle, goats, poultry or amphibians/reptiles, can also be a source of foodborne illness.  This occurs when that animal is shedding infectious bacteria and the person handling the animal does not properly wash their hands prior to touching their face or handling/consuming food.

  • Water can also be contaminated by bacteria that can make you sick when you ingest the water.  Water sources that may contain bacteria include recreational exposures from lakes, rivers, stream, hot tubs, and swimming pools.  Livestock tanks may also have bacteria growing in them and is not advised for people to drink from.

  • After the 2019 flood that occurred in Nebraska, cases of foodborne illness were noted in people that had completed clean up work in previously flooded areas. 

Four steps to food safety:

  1. Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often.

  2. Separate: Don’t cross contaminate.

  3. Cook: To the right temperature.

  4. Chill: Refrigerate promptly.