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Food poisoning describes any illness that results from eating contaminated food. Despite the many regulations and precautions designed to minimize foodborne illness in the United States, approximately 1 in 6 people experience some form of food poisoning every year. This results in almost 130,000 hospitalizations and approximately 3,000 deaths annually.
Understanding the causes of food poisoning—and learning to recognize the symptoms of this potentially harmful condition—can help keep you and your family safe from foodborne illnesses.
Most cases of foodborne illness occur due to bacteria and viruses. However, you can contract foodborne illness from ingesting parasites, toxins, mold and other contaminants.
Contaminants make their way into the food supply in a variety of ways. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), some of the most common causes of foodborne illness include:
The time required for symptoms to develop varies based on the type of contaminant ingested, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For example, E. coli symptoms present three to four days after exposure. Salmonella symptoms present 12-72 hours after exposure.
It is important to note that the symptoms of foodborne illness can also vary depending on the type of contaminant ingested. However, most cases of food poisoning include the following symptoms:
The CDC recommends seeking medical attention if you experience severe symptoms such as:
Some people face an increased risk of serious complications related to foodborne illness. If you suspect a foodborne illness and fall into any of the categories below, the CDC recommends seeking the attention of a healthcare provider immediately.
Most foodborne illness can be prevented, according to the USDA. Although you can’t control what happens to the food you eat at restaurants or other people’s homes, you can take steps to minimize the risk of food poisoning in your own home.
The CDC recommends following these four simple food safety tips:
Taking these simple steps can help keep you and your family safe from foodborne illnesses.
“Food Poisoning Symptoms.” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Food Poisoning.” FoodSafety.gov.
“Foodborne Illness: What Consumers Need to Know.” United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“Foodborne Illnesses and Germs.” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Sprains and Strains.” MedlinePlus.
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.