Foodborne illness, or food poisoning, affects about
You can get food poisoning when your food carries dangerous germs or toxins. Salmonella is the most common known cause of hospitalization due to food poisoning in the United States with over
This pathogen, along with others, can get into your food through:
- improper food handling
- unsafe practices on farms
- contamination during manufacturing or distributing
- contamination in stores
Read about the biggest foodborne outbreaks in recent U.S. history, and learn how to recognize food poisoning and protect yourself from it.
Most people recover from Salmonella infection within four to seven days. Symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps usually appear 12 to 72 hours after infection. Treatment includes antidiarrheal medications, antibiotics, and fluids and electrolytes.
2009: PCA peanut butter
The Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) experienced a Salmonella outbreak. According to
2011: Cargill ground turkey
Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey when it suspected the meat may have been contaminated with an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella. This outbreak caused at least one death and about
2013: Foster Farms chicken
California chicken producer Foster Farms was suspected of infecting a total of
2015: Mexican cucumbers
Salmonella from cucumbers imported from Mexico infected 907 people in 40 states. This outbreak resulted in the hospitalization of more than 200 persons and six deaths.
The cucumbers were distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce. The company issued two separate recalls.
E. coli bacteria normally lives in the intestines of animals and humans. However, infections from certain strains of this bacteria can sicken humans. Symptoms usually develop three to four days after exposure. They include:
- bloody stools
- abdominal pain
- fever (occasional)
The strain of E.coli most often associated with outbreaks produces a toxin. The toxin is what causes the illness, so antibiotics are ineffective. According to the
1993: Jack in the Box hamburgers
Four people in Washington and California died from eating contaminated meat from Jack in the Box. Hundreds of other customers also fell ill. This caused a national panic, nearly resulting in the end for the fast-food chain. The outbreak led to stronger government regulations of food handling.
2006: Dole baby spinach
The outbreak began in September, when the Food and Drug Administration linked E. coli infections to uncooked spinach in 26 states.
2006: Taco Bell fast food
In December, an E. coli outbreak affected
2015: Chipotle Mexican Grill fast food
Between October and November, Chipotle Mexican Grill had an
Symptoms of botulism usually begin 18 to 36 hours after exposure and include:
- difficulty swallowing or speaking
- blurry vision
- abdominal pain
- muscle weakness
Treatment for this condition requires hospitalization and includes antitoxins and supportive care.
1977: Trini & Carmen’s hot sauce
One of the largest botulism outbreaks in U.S. history occurred in Pontiac, Michigan. Customers of Mexican restaurant Trini & Carmen’s reported symptoms of food poisoning in March. The source was tracked to hot sauce made from improperly home-canned jalapeño peppers. Within days, the restaurant was closed and jars of contaminated peppers were seized. No were reported deaths, but 58 people became ill.
2015: Home-canned potatoes
According to the
Listeria infections are particularly dangerous for pregnant women. It’s possible for unborn babies to catch the infection. Pregnant women are also
This type of infection usually develops within a several days after eating contaminated food. In pregnant women, it can take much longer. Others often have symptoms of:
- loss of balance
- muscle aches
Symptoms during pregnancy include fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. Complications include miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and infection in a newborn.
Treatment involves antibiotics.
1985: Jalisco Products cheese
Over eight months, a Listeria outbreak affected 142 residents of Los Angeles County. This lead to the deaths of 10 newborns and 18 adults. It was also responsible for 20 miscarriages. An in-depth investigation linked the deaths to Jalisco Products’ Mexican soft cheeses. According to the
1998-1999: Hot dogs
An outbreak of Listeria from tainted hot dogs affected at least 100 people across 24 states, causing 14 adult deaths and four miscarriages. The contamination affected over nine brands, including Sara Lee Deli Meat. This outbreak spread from Bil Mar Foods’ manufacturing plant in Zeeland, Michigan.
2002: Pilgrim’s Pride turkey meat
Sliced turkey deli meat from Pilgrim’s Pride caused a widespread outbreak of Listeria in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Michigan. This lead to
In 2011, it’s believed that
Hepatitis A is a liver disease. Its symptoms may include:
- dark urine
- abdominal pain
- joint paint
- loss of appetite
There’s no specific treatment for hepatitis A, but your doctor may recommend rest, high fluid intake, and nutrition. In order to decrease outbreaks, the
1997: Frozen strawberries
In Calhoun County, Michigan, an outbreak of hepatitis A affected
2003: Chi-Chi’s salsa and chili con queso
The largest outbreak of hepatitis A happened at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant in Monaca, Pennsylvania. It caused the death of three people and about
2016: Tropical Smoothie Cafe drinks
An outbreak of hepatitis A at Tropical Smoothie Cafe restaurants affected nine states. The
Food recalls, government inspections, and food handling regulations are effective preventive measures used to keep our food safe. To prevent or lower your risk of foodborne illnesses, pay attention to food recalls and check your kitchen for contaminated products.
See a doctor if you have:
- bloody vomit or stools
- diarrhea lasting longer than three days
- extreme abdominal pain
- signs of dehydration (decreased urination, dizziness, palpitations)
- blurry vision
- fever greater than 101.5°F (38.6°C)
Food poisoning can be life-threatening to people with weakened immune systems, including children, pregnant individuals, and older adults.
Safe food handling practices are also important.
If you suspect that food may be spoiled or contaminated, toss it in the garbage. It’s better to be safe than sorry! You can also stay updated on current foodborne outbreaks by visiting the