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Region 7 Public Health Office

Keep Food Safe From Bacteria

Illness caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites in and on food are, unfortunately, more commonplace than they should be. It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that foodborne diseases cause 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,200 deaths each year in the US. The costs associated with only one of the more common illnesses, salmonella, have been projected to be more than $1 billion a year due to medical costs and lost wages. These diseases can infect anyone and are most often transmitted by eating or drinking contaminated food.

The good news is that the incidence of many foodborne diseases can be reduced just by practicing some basic food safety steps:

  • wash the peel or rind of fruits and vegetables before cutting
  • wash your hands often during food preparation
  • clean any cutting boards when you are done using
  • keep foods separate during preparation
  • cook foods to the proper temperature
  • refrigerate foods right after eating

There are over 250 different types of foodborne diseases. We have included a chart of some of the more common ones that we think you might find interesting. Included is information about the symptoms produced by the disease, the incubation period which outlines the time from eating or drinking the contaminated food to when symptoms will appear, how long the illness typically lasts and the types of food that are the most common sources of these diseases. This chart is not intended as a diagnostic tool.


(Time from eating or drinking to feeling ill)
(How long it could last)
Bacillus cereus type 1: nausea, vomiting, cramps
type 2: cramps, diarrhea
type 1: 1 to 6 hours
type 2: 6 to 24 hours
24 hours type 1: cooked rice
type 2:meat or vegetables
Campylobacter jejuni diarrhea, abdominal pain, malaise, fever 1 to 7 days or longer 1 day 1 week improperly cooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, untreated water
Clostridium botulinum (Botulism) vomiting, diarrhea, descending paralysis, blurred vision, dry mouth 12 - 36 hours to several days Recovery could take months unheated or incompletely reheated food, improperly prepared home-canned foods
Clostridium perfringens watery diarrhea, moderate to severe cramps and mid-epigastric pain 6 to 24 hours, usually 8 to 12 hours 24 hours raw meat and poultry, food prepared in large quantities and kept warm for prolonged periods
E. coli watery stools, cramps, sometimes vomiting and fever 10 hours to 6 days Varies depending on the strain infected symptomatic persons/carriers, food or water contaminated with human/animal feces
E. coli EH (enterohemorrhagic, includes O157:H7) diarrhea, bloody stools, cramps, abdominal pain, kidney failure 3 to 4 days, as long as 8 days 1 3 weeks undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk, person-to person (fecal-oral)
Heavy Metals nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, burning pain, shock, convulsions, coma immediately to several hours Varies depending on the chemical chemical contaminants
Norwalk and Rotavirus vomiting, fever, diarrhea, sometimes dehydration 1 to 3 days Up to 10 days person-to-person (fecal/oral)
Salmonella diarrhea, abdominal cramps and tenderness, fever 6 to 72 hours Up to 2 weeks or longer poultry, red meat, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, reptiles, pets, person-to-person
Shigella watery diarrhea, fever, headache, abdominal cramps, convulsions 1 to 7 days Several days or longer infected human feces, houseflies, contaminated food or water
Staphylococcus aureus cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sometimes fever 30 minutes to 6 hours 1 2 days ham, poultry, egg or potato salads, inadequate refrigeration, infected food handler
Vibrio cholera (Cholera) diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, shock, convulsions, coma 1 to 3 days Up to 5 days contaminated water or food, raw or undercooked shellfish
Vibrio parahemolyticus diarrhea, fever, headache, chills, shock 4 to 30 hours 1 7 days raw or undercooked seafood, cross-contamination by raw seafood
Yersinia enterocolitica fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain 4 to 6 days Up to 6 weeks contaminated food or water, uncooked pork products, unpasteurized milk