Foodborne Germs and Illnesses
Causes of Food Poisoning
Many different disease-causing germs can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne infections (also called foodborne disease or food poisoning).
- Researchers have identified more than 250 foodborne diseases.
- Most of them are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
- Harmful toxins and chemicals also can contaminate foods and cause foodborne illness.
CDC estimates that each year 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.
Do I Have Food Poisoning?
Common symptoms of foodborne diseases are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. However, symptoms may differ among the different types of foodborne diseases. Symptoms can sometimes be severe, and some foodborne illnesses can even be life-threatening. Although anyone can get a foodborne illness, some people are more likely to develop one. Those groups include:
- Older adults
- Young children
- People with immune systems weakened from medical conditions, such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, organ transplants, or HIV/AIDS, or from receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
- Pregnant women
Most people with a foodborne illness get better without medical treatment, but people with severe symptoms should see their doctor.
Anyone can get sick from eating contaminated food. Follow four simple food safety steps—clean, separate, cook, and chill—to lower your chance of food poisoning and to protect yourself and your loved ones.