Food poisoning and illness
You can’t see, smell, or taste foodborne pathogens. Pathogens are microorganisms sometimes found in your food that can make you sick. Practice food safety at all times.
The Government of Canada estimates that there are approximately 11 million cases of food poisoning in Canada every year. Many food poisonings can be prevented by following these safe food-handling practices: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
Reporting food poisoning or filing a complaint
If you suspect that you have food poisoning after eating or have witnessed unsafe food handling practices at a local food premises, you can file a complaint online or by calling a public health inspector at 705.522.9200, ext. 464 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).
What causes food poisoning?
Food poisoning is usually caused by eating foods that contain large amounts of harmful bacteria (pathogens) or from consuming foods in which bacteria have produced toxins or poisons.
What are foodborne pathogens?
Pathogens are microorganisms sometimes found in your food that can make you sick. They include:
- bacteria such as Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium botulinum, E. coli 0157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Shigella, and Cholera
- viruses such as hepatitis A and norovirus
- parasites such as Cyclospora and Trichinella spiralis
Can foodborne pathogens make you sick?
Food or drink that contains pathogens can cause food poisoning. Some people can have food poisoning with mild symptoms and not even know they have it. Most people fully recover, but some may have more severe and possibly long-term or permanent consequences and will need to visit a doctor. In some cases, foodborne illness can cause death.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
Symptoms of foodborne illness can begin hours or days after consuming contaminated food or drink. The time period between consuming the pathogen and onset of symptoms depends on the type, and amount of pathogen you’ve consumed, as well as your general health. Many people experience:
- stomach pains or cramps
What should you do if you think you have food poisoning?
See a doctor as soon as possible if you think you have a foodborne illness and are experiencing the following symptoms:
- fever above 38.5°C (101.3°F)
- blood in stool
- vomiting so much you can’t keep liquids down
- diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days
Which foods are most often associated with food poisoning?
Potentially hazardous foods are most often implicated with food poisoning. Hazardous foods are foods that require time-temperature control to keep them safe for eating. If these foods are not handled safely, harmful microorganisms can easily grow to harmful levels. They include:
- milk and milk products
- cooked rice
- meat and poultry
- fish and shellfish
- raw sprouts
How do you prevent food poisoning?
Follow these safe food-handling practices to reduce the chances of you and your family getting sick from food poisoning:
- Clean — If you don’t keep your hands, food, work surfaces, and utensils clean, harmful pathogens can easily spread.
- Separate — Raw food such as meat, and their juices can contain harmful bacteria. These bacteria can be transferred from raw food to cooked and ready-to-eat food.
- Cook — Most of the time cooking food to the right internal temperature will kill off these pathogens. Verify cooking temperatures using a probe thermometer. Once cooked, keep hot foods above 60°C (140°F).
- Chill — Bacteria can grow in the temperature danger zone, between 4°C and 60°C (40°F to 140°F). Keep cold foods at or below 4°C (40°F).
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of food poisoning and would like to speak with a registered nurse, Health811 can be reached by calling 811 (TTY: 1.866.797.0007).
This item was last modified on February 24, 2023