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5 Decidedly Unpleasant Facts About Food Poisoning

5 Decidedly Unpleasant Facts About Food Poisoning

Getting food poisoning, even if it’s an especially mild case, can be one of the most unpleasant things you’re likely to ever experience. Because let’s face it: any time spent in distress in the bathroom is not time well spent, and a case of food poisoning can knock you out for days. So just to get your stomach roiling a little bit, here are five facts about food poisoning that, well, aren’t too pleasant.

There are Five Different Ways to Contract It
Not all food poisoning is the same. In fact, there are five different ways to contract foodborne illness: Eating food that’s spoiled; eating food that’s been contaminated by pathogenic bacteria (like salmonella or E. coli), viruses (like norovirus) or parasites; and eating food that has natural toxins, like poisonous mushrooms.

The Incubation Period Can Leave You Guessing Where it Came From
While certain toxins in food can have you heading for the bathroom an hour after eating something bad, many of the worst forms of foodborne illnesses only present themselves after a lengthy incubation period. Microbes have to pass through the stomach into the intestine and multiply, which can mean that days can pass before the first symptoms present themselves (listeria poisoning can take months to manifest). Because of this, it’s oftentimes impossible to pinpoint what the exact offender was without further investigation.

Just When You Think it’s Over, it Can Get Much Worse
Your first bout of vomiting might empty your stomach of infected food, but by then there’s a good chance that microbes have already made their way into your intestinal walls and begun to multiply. And once they’ve multiplied to the point where symptoms appear, that’s where things get really bad.

The Only Way to Know Something is Safe is to Make it Yourself
If you’re served rotting food, or something that smells really off, clearly you shouldn’t eat it. But in reality, spoilage bacteria is far less likely to make you sick than pathogenic bacteria, which is invisible and flavorless (and comes from sources like unwashed hands and cross-contamination). There’s no way to know for sure that something is safe unless you prepare it yourself.

Only One to Two Percent of Outbreaks Are Detected
We’ll occasionally hear about foodborne illness outbreaks (like the one that destroyed Chipotle’s reputation), but because they’re so hard to trace back to the original offender, and because many people who have a bout of food poisoning aren’t hospitalized, a minute percentage of them are actually detected and reported. There’s a lot more foodborne illness out there than you may think.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.


View as List Food Poisoning Facts

You ate at one of your favorite restaurants last night, and got sick several hours later. You blame it on the salmon, or maybe the salad. Should you call the restaurant or health department? It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of food poisoning, or even to be sure that it is food poisoning. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

What kind of food is most likely to make me sick?

Nearly any food, but seafood, produce, poultry, beef and eggs are the top five culprits. Raw foods and undercooked meats and seafood, as well as inadequately refrigerated foods, are riskiest, since refrigeration retards the growth of bacteria, and cooking at high temperatures kills most of them. Home-cooked meals are at least as risky as restaurant food.

What organism made me sick?

You’ll probably never know unless you go to a doctor and have a stool test. There are more than 200 foodborne infections, caused by bacteria (notably Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and E.coli), viruses, and parasites. Toxins in the food (such as mushroom toxin and toxins from some fish) can also cause illness.

What number of bugs = illness?

It depends on the organism. With some types it can take 100 million organisms, but with very virulent ones, a few organisms can cause illness. Viruses generally have a low infectious dose, and they multiply much faster than bacteria. It also depends on the age and health of the person eating the food. People with impaired or underdeveloped immunity, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic diseases (such as cancer or HIV), can become sick from smaller doses. They are also at higher risk for serious complications.

How long does it take before I get sick?

The incubation period can be anywhere from one hour to several weeks (the latter is rare). For the most common infections, it takes 4 to 48 hours for symptoms to appear. For parasites it can take more than a month. The longer the time lag, the harder it is to figure out the cause. So don't assume it was your most recent meal that did it.

Why do only some people get sick?

The food may be unevenly contaminated, so not everyone will consume the same amount of organisms. And some people are simply more susceptible to certain infections.

How long does the illness last?

Usually a day or two, but sometimes several days or even weeks, depending on the type of organism and the individual's health.

Food that looks or smells bad is more likely to make me sick, right?

No. The microorganisms that cause spoilage are different from those that cause food poisoning, which seldom produce perceptible changes in food. Thus, food that looks and smells okay is just as likely to make you sick as food that looks spoiled.

How do I know it isn't a stomach flu?

There is no such thing as stomach flu the influenza virus doesn't cause diarrhea and vomiting in adults. But it may well be an intestinal virus, such as rotavirus or norovirus. These "stomach bugs" are highly contagious and travel in feces food preparers or handlers who don't wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom are the most common source of outbreaks. You get infected from contaminated food or water or from touching contaminated objects and then touching your mouth or nose.

Nobody got food poisoning in my grandmother's day. Why is that?

In some cases, foods or organisms are different today, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. Foods may contain new organisms, and organisms can evolve to become more virulent. In any case, people back then did get sick, but they usually didn't know it was food poisoning. Food is much safer today, thanks in large part to preservatives and better knowledge about food handling and preparation.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you have bloody stool, fever, severe abdominal pain, or prolonged or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or are very dehydrated, you should see a doctor. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system should seek medical attention even for milder symptoms.

Should I call the restaurant where I ate?

Yes, but don't be accusatory, since you can't be sure you got sick there. Don't expect them to accept responsibility, but if other people also call, the restaurant will know there is a problem. Better, call the local heath department.