Prevent Food Poisoning
Anybody can get food poisoning, but some people are more likely to get seriously ill.
Every year, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. However, certain groups of people are more likely to get a foodborne illness (also called food poisoning) or get seriously ill. Learn why certain groups have a higher chance for food poisoning and what steps they can take to protect themselves.
People more likely to get a foodborne illness are:
- Children younger than 5 years of age
- Adults aged 65 and older
- People with weakened immune systems from medical conditions or their treatment, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or diabetes
- Pregnant women
Join CDC in sharing information about food safety during Food Safety Education Month in September.
Why are some people at higher risk?
Some groups of people are more likely to get food poisoning because their body’s ability to fight germs and sickness is not as effective as other people’s for a variety of reasons.
Young children have immune systems that are still developing, so their body’s ability to fight germs and sickness isn’t as strong. Food poisoning can be particularly dangerous for them because illness can lead to diarrhea and dehydration. Children younger than 5 are three times more likely to be hospitalized if they get a Salmonella infection. And kidney failure strikes 1 out of 7 children under age 5 who are diagnosed with E. coli O157 infection.
Older adults have a higher risk because as people age, their immune systems and organs don’t recognize and get rid of harmful germs as well as they once did. Nearly half of people aged 65 and older who have a lab-confirmed foodborne illness from Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria or E. coli are hospitalized.
People with weakened immune systems can’t fight germs and sickness as effectively. People on dialysis are 50 times more likely to get a Listeria infection.
Pregnant women are more likely than other people to get sick from certain germs. For example, pregnant women are 10 times more likely to get a Listeria infection.
How can I prevent food poisoning?
If you or someone you take care of is in one of these high-risk groups, learn which foods to avoid and what steps you can take to prevent food poisoning.
People who are more likely to get food poisoning should not eat the following:
- undercooked or raw animal products (such as meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood)
- raw or lightly cooked sprouts
- unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices
- soft cheese (such as queso fresco), unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk
Tips to prevent food poisoning
- Wash your hands and work surfaces often. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, cutting boards, and countertops.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from ready-to-eat foods in your shopping cart, refrigerator, and meal preparation area.
- Cook food to the right internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer.
- Keep your refrigerator below 40oF. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking (or within 1 hour if above 90oF outside).
What are symptoms of food poisoning?
Food poisoning may cause symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, upset stomach, or nausea. See your doctor if you have:
- High fever (over 101.5°F)
- Blood in stools
- Frequent vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquid down
- Diarrhea that lasts more than three days
- Signs of dehydration, including decrease in urination, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up
- Page last reviewed: August 28, 2017
- Page last updated: August 28, 2017
- Content source:
- National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs