Frequently Asked Questions From the Public Regarding Food Borne Illness
There can be several symptoms of food borne illness that may also be related to other illnesses, which is why it is important for you to see a health care professional as soon as possible to determine what is causing your symptoms and to treat the symptoms in a manner consistent with the diagnosis. Some symptoms that people may experience, that may be caused by food borne illness are:
- Abdominal cramps
Typically, food borne illnesses are caused by one of three major factors which introduce or allow potentially hazardous bacteria, viruses, toxins or other substances to be in the food we eat. The three main factors are:
- Poor hand washing or poor personal hygiene of the person(s) preparing the food,
- Cross-contamination of ready-to eat food by raw food,
- Time and temperature abuse of foods (not cold enough, hot enough or in between the two for too long).
The majority of food borne illnesses reported and verified each year are caused by the following bacteria or viruses:
- Bacillus cereus
- Clostridium perfringens
- Escherichia coli (E. coil) O157:H7
- Hepatitis A
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Norwalk virus
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Vibrio parahaemolyticus
- Other food borne illness diseases
You may contact the Environmental Health Division office and file a complaint of the alleged food borne illness. Upon consultation with your physician they may contact our office requesting an investigation.
An outbreak is an incident where two or more persons, not of the same household, have ingested a common food and have a similar illness, similar symptoms, and there is a time, place or person association between these persons. A single person complaint implicating a food with a food borne illness is only considered an outbreak for a few specific diseases.
All efforts are made to keep names of complainants confidential but all reports submitted to the Environmental Health Division are subject to Freedom of Information requests. The department does need a name and phone number of those exhibiting symptoms in order to conduct a thorough investigation.
To prove what organism caused the illness, there must be clinical specimens from the person who is ill and food specimens of what was eaten. If samples are available, laboratory tests can be conducted on both the food and clinical samples to determine what caused the illness.