Foodborne Illness symptoms, cases, outbreaks
August 17 2015 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.


Foodborne illness often shows itself as flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, so many people may not recognize that the illness is caused by bacteria or other pathogens in food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that many of the intestinal illnesses commonly referred to as stomach flu are actually caused by foodborne pathogens. People do not associate these illnesses with food because the onset of symptoms often occurs two or more days after the contaminated food was eaten.

Foodborne illness outbreak cases


Prevention of foodborne illness starts with your trip to the supermarket.
Pick up your packaged and canned foods first.
Don't buy food in cans that are bulging or dented or in jars that are cracked or have loose or bulging lids.
Don't eat raw shellfish and use only pasteurized milk and cheese and pasteurized or otherwise treated ciders and juices if you have a health problem, especially one that may have impaired your immune system.
Choose eggs that are refrigerated in the store. Before putting them in your cart, open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and none are cracked.


Bull Acad Natl Med. 2012. Diagnosis and control of human food poisoning outbreaks. Medical microbiology laboratories play a key role in the investigation of foodborne disease outbreaks. Bacterial pathogens (Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens, etc) have historically been implicated in foodborne illness, while the role of viruses (especially Norovirus) appears to have been underestimated. Culture-based diagnosis has gradually been complemented, or replaced, by rapid molecular methods applied directly to biological samples. These new tools should help to reduce the number of outbreaks in which the etiological agent goes unidentified, and to improve the exhaustiveness of notifications.


Canada statistics
Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2015. Estimates of Foodborne Illness-Related Hospitalizations and Deaths in Canada for 30 Specified Pathogens and Unspecified Agents. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that 4 million episodes of foodborne illness occur each year in Canada due to 30 known pathogens and unspecified agents. It is estimated that each year there are 4000 hospitalizations and 105 deaths associated with domestically acquired foodborne illness related to 30 known pathogens and 7600 hospitalizations and 133 deaths associated with unspecified agents. Key pathogens associated with these hospitalizations or deaths include norovirus, nontyphoidal Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., VTEC O157 and Listeria monocytogenes.