Food Safety Information for Consumers

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 What is Foodborne Illness | Which Pathogens cause Foodborne Illness | Symptoms | Avoiding Foodborne Illness



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What is a Foodborne Illness?

A foodborne illness is a disease caused by eating foods that has been contaminated by harmful bacteria or other microorganisms.

Pathogens are microorganisms, such as bacteria, virus or fungus that cause disease. Under the right conditions, pathogens grow rapidly, doubling in population every 10 to 30 minutes. Food can become contaminated with pathogens through improper handling, preparation or storage.

Keep in mind, food that contains pathogens or their toxins may look, smell and taste normal.

Which Pathogens Cause Foodborne Illnesses?

The most common foodborne pathogens are:
Campylobacter jejuni,
Clostridium perfringens,
Escherichia coli O157:H7,
Listeria monocytogenes and
Salmonella species.

However, Noroviruses, Hepatitis A and E viruses and mycotoxins and other naturally occurring toxins can also cause foodborne illnesses.

What are the Symptoms?

The most common symptoms include: mild to severe diarrhea, fever, fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and chills. Symptoms can occur hours or even days after eating contaminated food.

Tips to Avoid Foodborne Illnesses at Home

Note: Don't forget to wash your reusable grocery bags frequently.

Quick Links

Alberta Health Services Government of Canada CFIA
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Claude Baker.
This document is maintained by Amrit Matharu.
This information published to the web on October 17, 2013.
Last Reviewed/Revised on January 10, 2017.