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Be Food Safe: Protect Yourself from Food Poisoning

Foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning, is a common, costly—yet preventable—public health problem. Each year, about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. With the recent high-profile outbreaks of Salmonella in raw ground tuna and Listeria in cantaloupes, food safety is fresh in our minds.

Common Foodborne Illnesses and Symptoms

A young girl slicing fruitThe most common foodborne illnesses are norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter. Symptoms of food poisoning can be as commonplace as diarrhea or as life-threatening as organ failure. These illnesses can even cause long-term health problemsor death. When young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weak immune systems eat contaminated food, they have a greater chance of becoming severely sick with problems like miscarriage or kidney failure.

See your doctor or healthcare provider if you have diarrhea along with a high fever (temperature over 101.5°F, measured orally), blood in the stools, prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down, signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up, or if you have had diarrhea for more than 3 days.

Be Food-Safe Savvy: Know the Risks and Rules

Everyone is at risk for food poisoning. To reduce your risk, be savvy about how germs can be found in contaminated food and sometimes make you sick. There are things that you can do to protect yourself. For example, do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs or raw (unpasteurized) milk.

Young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weak immune systems are more at risk for food poisoning and should be especially careful. Knowing the rules of food safety will help prevent germs sometimes found in food from making you sick.

Rules of Food Safety

  • CLEAN
    Wash your hands and surfaces often. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards.
  • SEPARATE
    Don't cross-contaminate. Even after you’ve cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.
    Watch the SEPARATE video!
  • COOK
    Cook to the right temperature. While many people think they can tell when food is "done" simply by checking its color and texture, there’s no way to be sure it’s safe without following a few important but simple steps. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry.
    Watch the COOK video!
  • CHILL
    Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and refrigerate foods properly. Germs can grow in many foods within 2 hours unless you refrigerate them. (During the summer heat, cut that time down to 1 hour.)

For more information on preventing food poisoning, check your steps at FoodSafety.gov.

More Information

For more information about foodborne illness and food safety, call 1-800-CDC-INFO, e-mail cdcinfo@cdc.gov, or visit these Web sites:

 

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  • Page last reviewed: May 6, 2013
  • Page last updated: May 6, 2013
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