Foodborne illness occurs when a person eats a food that contains harmful amounts of a bacteria, virus, parasite, toxin or chemical, and develops illness, usually with diarrhea and/or vomiting. People sometimes refer to foodborne illness as “food poisoning”. It can occur in any type of setting where food is served, not just at restaurants and picnics or parties, but also in the home. Some of the more common foodborne pathogens include:
E. coli O157:H7
Staph (Staphylococcus aureus)
Most of the organisms causing foodborne illness cannot be seen, smelled, or even tasted. People can also get sick when chemicals such as lead and pesticides get into food.
Foodborne illness that occurs after consuming food or beverage from a food establishment in Orange County should be reported to HCA Environmental Health at 714-433-6418 or through an online Foodborne Illness Complaint. All reports are confidential.
Foodborne illness occurs when a person eats a food that contains harmful amounts of a bacteria, virus, parasite, toxin or chemical, Food contamination can occur in the following ways:
Natural bacteria found in food are allowed to grow to harmful levels. This can happen when food is cooked or stored at the wrong temperature.
The cooking area is not kept clean(for example, when insects or rodents get into the kitchen area).
The cooking utensils are not cleaned properly. For example, a board used to cut raw meat is then used for foods eaten raw. This is called cross-contamination. Bacteria may also grow on wet, contaminated cloths and sponges (water may get rid of dirt you can see, but not bacteria).
Cooks or servers contaminate food as it is being cooked, prepared or served. This can happen when hands are not adequately washed, there are sores on the hands, or food handlers sneeze or cough into the food.
Heating or re-heating contaminated foods to high temperatures will kill many organisms. But, there are some bacteria (e.g., Staph and Bacillus cereus) that make chemicals, also called toxins, that cannot be "killed" (inactivated) by heat.
Many times foodborne illness goes unrecognized, or is thought to simply be a "stomach flu." Symptoms may occur within a few hours to days after eating contaminated food. It is often not the last thing eaten that makes a person sick. Symptoms may include:
The length of time a person is sick from a foodborne illness varies. Most people get better quickly, while some may have severe symptoms that can become serious. Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting can cause you to become dehydrated. You may need to see your doctor for your symptoms. Your doctor may need to do tests to find the cause of your illness.
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