Food Related Diseases & Conditions

Food Related Diseases & Conditions

Foodborne illness (sometimes called foodborne disease, foodborne infection, or food poisoning) is a common, expensive public health problem. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that each year 1 in 6 people get sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases in the United States. More than 250 different foodborne diseases have been described. Most of these diseases are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be in food.

Other diseases are poisonings, caused by harmful toxins or chemicals that have contaminated the food, for example, poisonous mushrooms. These different diseases have many different symptoms, so there is no one “syndrome” that is foodborne illness. However, the microbe or toxin enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract, and often causes the first symptoms there, so nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea are common symptoms in many foodborne diseases.

There are many different kinds of foodborne diseases and they may require different treatments, depending on the symptoms they cause. Illnesses that are primarily diarrhea or vomiting can lead to dehydration if the person loses more body fluids and salts (electrolytes) than they take in.

A healthcare provider should be consulted for a diarrheal illness if any of the following symptoms are present: high fever (temperature over 101.5°F, measured orally), blood in the stools, prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration), signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up, or diarrheal illness that lasts more than three days.

Report a Foodborne Illness or File a Complaint

To report a suspected foodborne illness or file a complaint about unsafe food handling practices at a restaurant, contact your state or local health department or visit the igotsick website to file a confidential complaint.