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  1. People at Risk of Foodborne Illness

Food Safety for People with Diabetes

Brochure cover for Food Safety for people with cancer.

A need-to-know guide for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Food and Drug Administration  

September 2006; Slightly revised September 2011

English (PDF - 3.26MB)

En español (PDF - 2.90MB)

Food safety is important for everyone – but it’s especially important for you. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration have prepared this booklet. It is designed to provide practical guidance on how to reduce your risk of foodborne illness. In addition to this guide, we encourage you to check with your physician or health care provider to indentify foods and other products that you should avoid. You have a special need for this important information . . . so read on!

When certain disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites contaminate food, they can cause foodborne illness.  Another word for such a bacteria, virus, or parasite is “pathogen.” Foodborne illness, often called food poisoning, is an illness that comes from a food you eat.

  • The food supply in the United States is among the safest in the world – but it can still be a source of infection for all persons.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million persons get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne infection and illness in the United States each year. Many of these people are children, older adults, or have weakened immune systems and may not be able to fight infection normally.

Since foodborne illness can be serious – or even fatal – it is important for you to know and practice safe food-handling behaviors to help reduce your risk of getting sick from contaminated food.

As a person with diabetes, you are not alone -- there are many people in the United States with this chronic disease. Diabetes can affect various organs and systems of your body, causing them not to function properly, and making you more susceptible to infection. For example:

  • Your immune system, when functioning properly, readily fights off harmful bacteria and other pathogens that cause infection. With diabetes, your immune system may not readily recognize harmful bacteria or other pathogens. This delay in the body’s natural response to foreign invasion places a person with diabetes at increased risk for infection. 
  • Your gastrointestinal tract, when functioning properly, allows the foods and beverages you consume to be digested normally. Diabetes may damage the cells that create stomach acid and the nerves that help your stomach and intestinal tract move the food throughout the intestinal tract. Because of this damage, your stomach may hold on to the food and beverages you consume for a longer period of time, allowing harmful bacteria and other pathogens to grow.
  • Additionally, your kidneys, which work to cleanse the body, may not be functioning properly and may hold on to harmful bacteria, toxins, and other pathogens.
  • A consequence of having diabetes is that it may leave you more susceptible to developing infections -- like those that can be brought on by disease-causing bacteria and other pathogens that cause foodborne illness. Should you contract a foodborne illness, you are more likely to have a lengthier illness, undergo hospitalization, or even die.
  • To avoid contracting a foodborne illness, you must be vigilant when handling, preparing, and consuming foods.

Make safe handling a lifelong commitment to minimize your risk of foodborne illness. Be aware that as you age, your immunity to infection naturally is weakened.

Download the Guide for Information on these Topics:

  • Major Pathogens That Cause Foodborne Illness
  • Eating at Home: Making Wise Food Choices
  • Common Foods: Select the Lower Risk Options
  • Taking Care: Handling and Preparing Food Safely
  • Cold Storage Chart
  • In the Know: Becoming a Better Shopper
  • Food Product Dating
  • Transporting Your Groceries
  • Being Smart When Eating Out
  • Tips for Transporting Food
  • Foodborne Illness: Know the Symptoms
  • Foodborne Illness Action Plan

English (PDF - 3.26MB)

En español (PDF - 2.90MB)