Foodborne Illnesses: What You Need to Know

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While the American food supply is among the safest in the world, the Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually—the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year. And each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

The chart below includes foodborne disease-causing organisms that frequently cause illness in the United States. As the chart shows, the threats are numerous and varied, with symptoms ranging from relatively mild discomfort to very serious,life-threatening illness. While the very young, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk of serious consequences from most foodborne illnesses, some of the organisms shown below pose grave threats to all persons.


Common Name of Illness

Onset Time After Ingesting

Signs & Symptoms


Food Sources

Bacillus cereusB. cereus food poisoning10-16 hrsAbdominal cramps, watery diarrhea, nausea24-48 hoursMeats, stews, gravies, vanilla sauce
Campylobacter jejuniCampylobacteriosis2-5 daysDiarrhea, cramps, fever, and vomiting; diarrhea may be bloody2-10 daysRaw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk,contaminated water
Botulism12-72 hoursVomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, double vision, difficulty in swallowing, muscle weakness. Can result in respiratory failure and deathVariableImproperly canned foods, especially home-canned vegetables, fermented fish, baked potatoes in aluminum foil
Perfringens food
8–16 hoursIntense abdominal cramps, watery diarrheaUsually 24
Meats, poultry, gravy, dried or precooked foods, time and/or temperature-abused foods
2-10 daysDiarrhea (usually watery), stomach cramps, upset stomach, slight feverMay be remitting and relapsing over weeks to monthsUncooked food or food contaminated by an ill food handler after cooking, contaminated drinking water
Cyclosporiasis1-14 days, usually at least 1 weekDiarrhea (usually watery), loss of appetite, substantial loss of weight, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fatigueMay be remitting and relapsing over weeks to monthsVarious types of fresh produce (imported berries, lettuce, basil)
E. coli
(Escherichia coli)

producing toxin
E. coli infection
(common cause of
“travelers’ diarrhea”)
1-3 daysWatery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, some vomiting3-7 or more daysWater or food contaminated with human feces
E. coli O157:H7Hemorrhagic colitis
or E. coli O157:H7 infection
1-8 daysSevere (often bloody) diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Usually, little or no fever is present. More common in children 4 years or younger. Can lead to kidney failure.5-10 daysUndercooked beef (especially hamburger), unpasteurized milk and juice, raw fruits and vegetables (e.g. sprouts), and contaminated water
Hepatitis AHepatitis28 days average (15-50 days)Diarrhea, dark urine, jaundice, and flu-like symptoms, i.e., fever, headache, nausea, and abdominal painVariable, 2 weeks-3 monthsRaw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler; shellfish from contaminated waters
Listeriosis9-48 hrs for gastro-intestinal symptoms, 2-6 weeks for invasive diseaseFever, muscle aches, and nausea or diarrhea. Pregnant women may have mild flu-like illness, and infection can lead to premature delivery or stillbirth. The elderly or immunocompromised patients may develop bacteremia or meningitis.VariableUnpasteurized milk, soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, ready-to-eat deli meats
NorovirusesVariously called viral gastroenteritis, winter diarrhea, acute non- bacterial gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and food infection12-48 hrsNausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, fever, headache. Diarrhea is more prevalent in adults, vomiting more common in children.12-60 hrsRaw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler; shellfish from contaminated waters
SalmonellaSalmonellosis6-48 hoursDiarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting4-7 daysEggs, poultry, meat, unpateurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables
ShigellaShigellosis or Bacillary dysentery4-7 daysAbdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea. Stools may contain blood and mucus.24-48 hrsRaw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked foods and cooked foods that are not reheated after contact with an infected food handler
Staphylococcus aureusStaphylococcal food poisoning1-6 hoursSudden onset of severe nausea and vomiting. Abdominal cramps. Diarrhea and fever may be present.24-48 hoursUnrefrigerated or improperly refrigerated meats, potato and egg salads, cream pastries
V. parahaemolyticus infection4-96 hoursWatery (occasionally bloody) diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever2-5 daysUndercooked or raw seafood, such as shellfish
Vibrio vulnificusV. vulnificus infection1-7 daysVomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloodborne infection. Fever, bleeding within the skin, ulcers requiring surgical removal. Can be fatal to persons with liver disease or weakened immune systems.2-8 daysUndercooked or raw seafood, such as shellfish (especially oysters)




For more information about food safety, call FDA's Food Information Line at: 1-888-SAFEFOOD or submit your inquiry electronically. The line is open Monday through Friday 10AM – 4PM EST except for Thursdays 12:30PM – 1:30PM EST and Federal Holidays.

Page Last Updated: 08/07/2018
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