Eating Safely

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is foodborne illness?

Illnesses you get from contaminated food are called foodborne illnesses, also known as food poisoning. These illnesses may come from eating foods contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites, also called pathogens. Each year, about 48 million people in the United States become ill from eating contaminated foods. Thousands are hospitalized and around 3,000 people die.

(Watch the video to learn more about foodborne illness and older adults. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

If you get foodborne illness, you might have upset stomach, abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. Or, you could have flu-like symptoms with a fever and headache, and body aches. Sometimes people confuse foodborne illness with other types of illness.

Foodborne illnesses can be dangerous. Many are caused by bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, which can cause serious health problems. But if you follow good food safety practices, you can reduce your risk of getting sick from these and other harmful bacteria.

Learn more about how bacteria can cause foodborne illness. (From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).