Foodborne Illness

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (about 48 million people) gets sick from food-related illnesses each year, and that more than 125,000 of those people require hospitalization. Foodborne illness is caused by ingesting or preparing foods and beverages contaminated with disease-causing pathogens. More than 250 different foodborne diseases have been discovered and are caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals.

Tracking Illness & Preventing the Spread
Staff from St. Charles County's Division of Environmental Health and Protection and Division of Health Services work together with organizations throughout our community to prevent foodborne outbreaks before they occur and to track the sources if cases are discovered. The St. Charles County Food Code outlines food safety procedures that restaurants, grocery stores, temporary food vendors and other entities must follow when providing food services to the public. In addition, health department staff investigates incidents of food contamination to prevent outbreaks. The goals of these investigations are to discover the probable cause of the illness, to minimize further spread of illness from this incident and to provide controls that will prevent recurrence. If you believe that you've become sick while dining in a St. Charles County restaurant or from food products obtained from a St. Charles County food vendor, please call the Division of Environmental Health and Protection at 636-949-1800.

Preventing Foodborne Illness
The most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of foodborne illness is to wash your hands and preparation utensils regularly in hot, soapy water. In addition, following the 4 keys to food safety (Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill) will help to prevent contamination. As temperature changes can influence the development of some disease-causing agents, it's very important to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot before, during and after preparation. For more information on Food Safety, please look online.

The Most Common Foodborne Diseases

Raw and undercooked foods, as well as products that have been prepared or stored improperly, are items that are most likely to become contaminated with potentially harmful microbes. Although illnesses can affect different people in different ways, common symptoms of foodborne illnesses are fever, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. Most food-related illnesses cause a short-lived discomfort, but some can become life-threatening.
The Most Common Foodborne Diseases in America
Common Name Signs & Symptoms Typical Onset After Ingestion
Duration of Illness Potential Sources
Botulism Vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision/double vision,
difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, death
12-72 hours Varies Poorly canned vegetables, fermented fish, baked potatoes in aluminum foil
Campylobacteriosis Diarrhea (may be bloody), cramps, fever and vomiting 2-5 days 2-10 days Raw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk,
contaminated water
Clostridium perfringens Intense abdominal cramping, watery diarrhea 8-16 hours Usually 24 hours Meat, poultry, meat-based gravies, dried or pre-cooked foods, foods improperly prepared
Cryptosporidium Watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, upset stomach, fever 2-10 days May continue for several weeks or months
Uncooked food or food contaminated by an ill food handler, contaminated water
E. Coli Watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting 1-3 days 3-7 days Water or food contaminated with human feces
Hepatitis A Diarrhea, dark urine, jaundice, flu-like symptoms, headache 28 days Varies Raw produce, contaminated water, food contaminated by an ill
food handler, shellfish
Listeriosis Fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, Pregnant women may experience flu-like symptoms and/or premature delivery or stillbirth
9-48 hours Varies Unpasteurized milk, soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk,
deli meats
Norovirus Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, headache 12-48 hours 12-60 hours Raw produce, contaminated drinking water, uncooked food or cooked food not properly reheated, human interaction/sanitation
Salmonella Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting 6-48 hours 4-7 days Eggs, meats, poultry, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese made with unpasteurized milk, raw fruits
and vegetables
Shigellosis Abdominal cramps, fever, diarrhea (may be bloody or mucus-like)
4-7 days 24-48 hours Raw produce, contaminated water, undercooked foods, foods not properly reheated
Staphylococcus Aureus Sudden onset of severe nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever
1-6 hours 24-48 hours Unrefrigerated or improperly stored meats, potato / egg salads,
cream pastries
Vibriosis Watery diarrhea (may be bloody), abdominal pain, bloodborne infections, death
4 hours to
7 days
2-8 days Raw / undercooked shellfish - especially oysters
Yersiniosis Abdominal pain, diarrhea (may be bloody), fever 4-7 days 1-3 weeks Raw / undercooked pork products, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water, human interaction/sanitation