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Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illness (food poisoning) describes the sickness that can happen to anyone who eats food that is contaminated with germs (bacteria, viruses, parasites) or chemicals. The Government of Canada estimates that more than four million Canadians get food poisoning every year.1

 

 
 

Who is most likely to get sick?

  • Children
  • Elderly (older) people
  • Pregnant woman
  • People with weakened immune systems

These groups are more likely to get sick from the food that they eat. If they get sick, the illness can be more serious.

Common signs and symptoms of foodborne illness

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea
  • Fever 
  • Dehydration

Symptoms of foodborne illness may be mild and last only a few hours, or they may be severe, last longer and need medical treatment. Most foodborne illnesses are mild and usually go unreported.

 

 

Don't be a source of foodborne illness!

A picture of symbol that means do not work when sick

Food handlers who are sick with diarrhea and/or vomiting need to remain off work until they have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.

 

Causes of Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illness (food poisoning) often happens after improper handling, preparation, or storage of food. Safe food handling can help prevent foodborne illnesses.

Common causes of foodborne illnesses:

See additional common causes of food poisoning on the Government of Canada's web page.

Outbreaks

A foodborne outbreak is where a number of people become sick with a similar illness after eating a common food. Any time food makes a group of people sick, Public Health Inspectors investigate to try and find out what caused the illness. The faster an outbreak can be identified, the better chance there is to find out what food made the people sick and what can be done to prevent illness in the future.

To report a suspected case of foodborne illness (food poisoning) or an outbreak, contact a Public Health Inspector on the Environmental Health Team at:

  • 519-663-5317

Don't be a source of foodborne illness!

Do not prepare food or drinks for others if you are sick with diarrhea and/or vomiting. You can easily contaminate the food and drinks that you touch, and the people who eat them can become sick.

Food workers who prepare food while sick are often linked to foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants and other retail food establishments.

Food handlers who are sick with diarrhea and/or vomiting need to remain off work until they have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.

Additional Information

Read more about foodborne illnesses (food poisoning):

To speak to a Public Health Inspector on the Environmental Health Team about foodborne illnesses or to report a foodborne illness, please call:

  • 519-663-5317
 
Date of creation: January 29, 2013
Last modified on: January 21, 2021
 
 

References

1Government of Canada. (2016, July 5). Yearly food-borne illness estimates for Canada. Retrieved from
https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/food-borne-illness-canada/yearly-food-borne-illness-estimates-canada.html
2Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). (2014). Ontario health profile infographics. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.
3U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2012). Bad bug book (Second edition). Retrieved from
https://www.fda.gov/food/foodborne-pathogens/bad-bug-book-second-edition