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5 common culprits of foodborne illness

food poisoning If you become ill from food, you may spend 24 hours in the bathroom with vomiting and/or diarrhea. But foodborne illness is more than just unpleasant — it can pose a dangerous threat to health, especially for the very young, elderly and those with weakened immune systems. Health experts continue to investigate two groups of foodborne illness: major pathogens (known sources) and unspecified agents (unknown sources). Consider the following:

  • 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually in the U.S.
  • 9.4 million caused by major pathogens
  • 38.4 million caused by unspecified agents
  • 1 in 6 Americans gets food poisoning every year

Protect your health

  • Learn more about safe cooking and food handling practices at foodsafety.gov/keep.
  • Check for food safety recalls and sign up for automatic alerts at foodsafety.gov/recalls.
  • Call your provider if you have questions or concerns about foodborne illness symptoms.
  • If you believe you became ill from food, contact your local county or city health department to report the illness. To find out how to reach your local health department, visit foodsafety.gov/about/state/index.html.

5 common culprits


Organism

Duration

Food sources

Clostridium perfringens

Usually 24 hours

Meats, poultry, gravy, dried or precooked foods; foods that are undercooked or improperly stored/reheated

E. coli

3 to 7 or more days

Water or food contaminated with human feces

Listeria*

Variable

Unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, ready-to-eat deli meats

Noroviruses

12 to 60 hours

Raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods, foods contaminated by food handler, shellfish from contaminated waters

Salmonella

4 to 7 days

Eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruit and vegetables

* Note: Infection with listeria is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly and those with weak immune systems.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.