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Food Poisoning

Food “poisoning” (aka foodborne illness) occurs when food is contaminated by bacteria, parasites or viruses. Each year, about 48 million Americans get sick with food poisoning.

Anyone can get food poisoning, but pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a more serious illness and should take extra precautions to avoid food poisoning.

Common Food Poisoning Symptoms

Symptoms can range from mild to very serious. The most common symptoms are:

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

More serious food poisoning symptoms may include:

  • Bloody stools
  • Dehydration
  • Fever and chills
  • Nervous system damage

Call the 24-Hour Poison Help Line for Additional Support:


Tips to Prevent Food Poisoning

  • Buying Food:

    • Check the expiration dates on all foods, especially meats, poultry and dairy products. Do not buy or use foods beyond their expiration dates.
    • Do not buy food or canned goods if the packaging is torn, leaking, bulging, dented or rusted.

    Preparing Food:

    • Wash hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water before and after handling food and especially after using the bathroom.
    • Wash utensils and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch other food.
    • Do not wash raw meat, poultry or eggs, as washing these foods can actually spread germs.
    • Use 1 plate for raw meat and another plate after the meat is cooked.
    • Cook meat, poultry and seafood thoroughly, to a safe internal temperature.
    • Defrost foods safely in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave. Perishable foods should
      never be thawed on the counter or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more
      than 2 hours.
  • Foods Safe Internal Temperature

    Steaks, roasts, chops or beef, pork, lamb, veal
    (after 3 minutes of resting)

     Fish with fins  145°F
     Fresh ham (raw)  145°F
     Ground meats like beef and pork  160°F
     Egg dishes like frittata and quiche  160°F
     All poultry, including ground chicken and turkey  165°F
     Leftovers and casseroles  165°F
    • Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and your freezer at 0°F or below. Most leftovers are safe to store for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. For more storage information, visit
    • Throw out any leftovers that have been at room temperature for more than 2 hours or in hot weather for more than 1 hour.
    • If hot food must be out for longer than 2 hours, use warming trays or slow cookers to keep the food hot.
    • If cold food must be out for longer than 2 hours, use a cooler or ice bucket.
    • Do not eat any food you are unsure about. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • People with high risk of complications from food poisoning should avoid:

    • Undercooked or raw animal products, such as meat, chicken, turkey, eggs and seafood
    • Raw or lightly cooked sprouts
    • Unpasteurized juices, ciders, milk and milk products
    • Soft cheeses, such as queso fresco, unless made with pasteurized milk
    • Honey, until you are over age 1, because it can harbor spores of toxic bacterium that can cause botulism

If you Suspect Food Poisoning

If you suspect food poisoning, take these following actions and call The University of Kansas Hospital Poison Control Center.

  • Mild cases of food poisoning in adults can be treated at home.
  • Drink plenty of clear fluids.
  • Don't drink alcohol or beverages that contain caffeine or sugar. Sports drinks should be diluted with water.
  • When nausea and vomiting stop, begin eating small amounts of bland foods, such as such as rice, bread, potatoes and milk.

Contact your doctor if:

  • Symptoms are worsening or you are experiencing a fever, slurred speech, double vision, muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing
  • Symptoms have lasted more than 2 days
  • Symptoms started after recent travel to a foreign country
  • You have a disease or illness that weakens your immune system
  • You cannot keep down liquids or your prescribed medications