Eating Safely

Frequently Asked Questions

19. What should I do if I think I have a foodborne illness?

If you think you have a foodborne illness, you should take these steps.

  1. Contact your doctor or health care provider. As an older adult, you are at increased risk for severe infection. Contact your physician immediately if you develop symptoms or think you may be at risk. If you develop signs of infection as discussed with your physician, seek out medical advice and/or treatment immediately.
  2. Preserve the food in question. Wrap it securely, label it "Danger," and then freeze it. The food may be used to diagnose your illness and prevent others from getting sick.
  3. Save all packaging materials, such as cans or cartons. Write down the food, the date and time consumed, and save any identical unopened products. Write down as many foods and beverages you can recall consuming in the past week (or longer), since the onset time for various foodborne illnesses differ.
  4. Report the contaminated food. If the suspect food is a USDA-inspected meat, poultry, or egg product, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). For all other foods, call the FDA Office of Emergency Operations at 1-866-300-4374 or 301-796-8240.
  5. Call your local county or city health department if you think you became ill from food you ate at a local restaurant or other eating establishment so they can investigate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that if consumers have questions about foodborne illnesses, they should contact CDC’s hotline at 1-800-232-4636 (24-hour recorded information).