Food Poisoning Basics

Learn about the causes, signs, and symptoms of food poisoning and tips for how to prevent yourself and your family from getting sick.


  • Every year, about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.
  • Anybody can get food poisoning (also called foodborne illness).
  • But the following groups are more likely to get sick and to have a more serious illness:
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Adults aged 65 and older

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Children younger than age 5

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People whose immune systems are weakened by health conditions or medicine used to treat them, including people with diabetes, liver or kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, or cancer

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Pregnant women

You should not eat these foods if you are more likely to get food poisoning:

  •  Undercooked or raw animal products, such as meat, chicken, turkey, eggs, seafood
  • Raw or lightly cooked sprouts
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and juices
  • Soft cheese, such as queso fresco, unless it is made with pasteurized milk
Take Steps to Prevent Food Poisoning
1. Clean
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Wash hands, utensils, and kitchen surfaces often when you cook.

2. Separate
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Keep fresh produce separate from raw meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs. Use separate cutting boards and plates.

3. Cook
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Cook food to the right temperature to kill germs. Use a food thermometer to check.

4. Chill
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Refrigerate perishable food and leftovers within 2 hours (within 1 hour if it is hotter than 90°F outside).