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Foodborne ilLnesses and Outbreaks

Investigating-foodborne-outbreaksFoodborne illnesses are caused by eating or drinking something that is contaminated with germs (such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites) or chemicals (such as toxins or metals) that can make people sick. Many foodborne illnesses can cause sudden symptoms like upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting, but most people get better in a few days without treatment. Some foodborne illnesses can cause other serious symptoms, resulting in hospitalization, long-term health problems, or even death.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that every year in the United States:

  • 48 million (or 1 in 6) people get sick from a foodborne illness
  • 128,000 people are hospitalized because of a foodborne illness
  • 3,000 people die from a foodborne illness

What can I do to protect my family and myself from foodborne illness?

Anyone can get a foodborne illness (also called “food poisoning”), but certain groups of people are more likely to get very sick if they eat or drink something that is contaminated:
  • Pregnant women
  • Children under the age of 5 years
  • Adults aged 65 years and older
  • People with certain medical conditions that weaken the immune system (such as diabetes or cancer)
People in these groups must be especially careful to avoid and prevent foodborne illness.
You can help prevent foodborne illness by safely handling and cooking food before you eat or serve it. Learn the four steps of food safety:
  1. Clean: Wash your hands and the surfaces where you prepare food with soap and water.
  2. Separate: Don’t mix raw meat and ready-to-eat foods.
  3. Cook: Heat food to the right temperature to kill any germs that can make you sick.
  4. Chill: Refrigerate food right away to prevent germs from growing in your food. ​ 

4StepstoFoodSafety-CDPH


What are foodborne outbreaks? 

Food%20on%20tableWhen two or more people get sick from eating the same contaminated food, this is called a foodborne outbreak. Many people think of foodborne outbreaks as something that happened when a group of people got sick after eating contaminated food at the same restaurant or potluck. However, many outbreaks have happened among people who live far apart and eat food that was contaminated where it was grown or prepared before it was distributed in stores or restaurants across different states.

Foodborne outbreaks have been linked to many different types of contaminated food and drinks, including fruits and vegetables, raw dairy products, seafood, chicken, beef, pork, and processed foods (such as flour, cereal, and peanut butter). Raw or undercooked meat (including chicken and seafood) and animal products (like eggs or milk) are most likely to be contaminated with germs that can make people sick and cause foodborne outbreaks.

How can I help prevent foodborne outbreaks?

You can help the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) track and investigate foodborne outbreaks. If you think you have a foodborne illness:
  1. Report it to your local health department – local health departments tell CDPH about foodborne illnesses so that CDPH and public health officials can identify and control outbreaks and prevent more people from getting sick.
  2. See a doctor or healthcare provider to get tested – tests can help determine what kind of germ or chemical made you sick.
  3. Keep track of what and where you ate in the past week – the food that made you sick is often not the last food you ate!

HelpReportFoodborneIllness

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