Foodborne illnesses - sometimes called food poisoning - can affect anyone. Some people only have a mild sickness, but others have life-threatening symptoms. People with weakened immune systems, like the elderly, young, or pregnant people, are at greater risk of getting sick. You can reduce your risk of getting sick from food with good hygiene and safe food handling practices.
Every year in the U.S., 48 million people get sick from food and 3,000 people die from foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illnesses are actually over 250 different diseases and can be caused by toxins, chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Foodborne illness might be caused by:
We investigate cases of foodborne illness. If you think you might be sick from food you ate at a restaurant or other food service establishment, we want to hear from you. We follow up by asking questions to find out the source of the illness. If necessary, we take further steps to prevent other people from becoming sick.
Contact us at 360-778-6000 or email the Food Safety Program to report a foodborne illness.
You can reduce your risk of getting sick from the food you eat by practicing safe food handling. Follow these essential food safety tips:
Some foodborne illnesses are also passed from person to person. Highly contagious diseases - like norovirus - can easily spread to people who live together, work in the same place, or eat food touched by a person who is sick.
If you are sick with a foodborne illness, you can reduce the chance of getting others sick by:
If symptoms of foodborne illness - especially diarrhea - last longer than 3 days, see your health care provider to get treated and tested for foodborne illness.
If the severity of your illness concerns you, contact your healthcare provider. They can help you with any necessary treatment. In addition, please contact our office to report the illness. Depending on what we learn from talking to you, we may help prevent other people from becoming ill.
Do not prepare food for others when you are sick. Wash your hands thoroughly before you begin to prepare foods or eat foods. To properly wash hands, use plenty of soap and lather for at least 20 seconds (e.g., singing the Happy Birthday song twice) before rinsing and drying.
Avoid bare hand contact on ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. Keep food at a safe temperature.
Except for some toxins and viruses, most harmful microorganisms take longer than a few hours to make you sick. Symptoms of foodborne illness can start anywhere from a few hours to several weeks after eating contaminated food. So don't be so quick to blame your illness on the restaurant you ate at today for lunch - you may have gotten sick from something you ate a few days ago. Contact your local health department if you suspect you have a foodborne illness or want to file a complaint about unsafe food handling practices at a restaurant.
Ill food workers frequently make others sick by preparing food. If at all possible, avoid preparing food for other people when you do not feel well.