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Foodborne Illness Overview

Foodborne illness (sometime called foodborne disease," foodborne infection," or "food poisoning") is a common public health problem. Many different disease-causing pathogens can contaminate food or water, so there are many foodborne infections. In addition, posisonous chemicals, or other harmful substances can cause foodborne diseases if they are present in food and water.

DCHHS performs year-round surveillance and public health follow-up of human cases of foodborne illnesses, and provides education and outreach in the community. DCHHS also performs sanitation inspections of food establishments and day care centeres where DCHHS has regulatory authority in Dallas County.

While the elderly, very young, pregnant women, and individuals with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop serious complications from foodborne illnesses, anyone is susceptible to a foodborne illness.

Symptoms of foodborne illness may vary from person to person. Common symptoms of foodborne illness are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, and headache. Individuals may also experience abdominal cramps, pain, and bloating. See a medical provider for a diagnosis and possible treatment.

Some basic steps to preventing foodborne illnesses are:

  • Clean
    * Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food, changing diapers, or using the toilet.
    * After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
    * Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime.

  • Separate
    * Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food.
    * Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
    * Put cooked meat on a clean platter, rather than back on the one that held the raw meat.

  • Cook
    * Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked meat before serving.

  • Chill
    * Do not leave perishable food out more than 2 hours at room temperature—1 hour if the temperature was above 90°F.
    * Keep your refrigerator set at 40°F or below. Use a fridge thermometer to check.

  • Report
    * Report suspected foodborne illnesses to your local health department.

  • NEVER swallow recreational water from pools, fountains, lakes, or rivers.

Materials for the General Public

Foodborne Illness Chart en Español
Food Safety Basics en Español
Water Safety Basics en Español
Food Safety for Various Food Groups en Español
Barbecue and Food Safety en Español
Seafood and Food Safety en Español
Food Safety during an Emergency en Español

For general questions or for more information about Dallas County Health and Human Services,
please email Director Zachary Thompson at: zachary.thompson@dallascounty.org

Zachary S. Thompson
Director
Christopher Perkins, D.O., M.P.H.
Medical Director / Health Authority

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