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Food Poisoning

24-Hour Poison Control Center Hotline

Toll free 1-800-222-1222

Causes of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning can be caused by:

  • Improperly prepared or stored foods
  • Pesticides on fruits and vegetables
  • Poisonous mushrooms
  • Viruses, bacteria and parasites

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning can be mild or severe, depending on the cause and the amount of food eaten. Symptoms can develop quickly or over several days.

Common symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Watery stools

In severe cases, symptoms may include:

  • Bloody stools
  • Dehydration
  • Fever and chills
  • Nervous system damage

Buy Safe Food

Follow these tips to make sure the food you bring home from the grocery store is safe to eat.

  • Buy cold foods last during your shopping trip.
  • Don’t buy food if the package is torn or leaking.
  • Don’t buy food past its "sell–by" date.
  • Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other food.
  • Don’t buy canned goods that are bulging, dented or rusted.

Store Food Safely

Bacteria is a common cause of food poisoning. Follow these tips to avoid contaminated food.

  • Place frozen foods in the freezer and refrigerated foods in the refrigerator as soon after shopping as possible.
  • Set your refrigerator at 40ºF and the freezer at 0ºF. If you don’t have a thermometer, keep your refrigerator as cold as possible without freezing your milk or lettuce.
  • Thaw foods in the refrigerator or in the microwave, not on the counter. If you thaw food in the microwave, cook meat and poultry immediately after thawing.
  • Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish and raw meats within two days after purchase.
  • Keep refrigerated raw meat, poultry and fish away from other food.
  • Refrigerate food within two hours of cooking.
  • When picnicking, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Prepare Food Safely

Take steps during the preparation process to reduce the risk of poisoning.

  • Wash hands in hot, soapy water before, during and after food preparation.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Wash cutting boards and utensils in hot, soapy water or a 10-percent bleach solution after use.
  • Thoroughly cook all meats, poultry and seafood.
  • Use a meat thermometer, rather than relying on how meat looks. Cook to these temperatures:
    • Ground meats: 160°F
    • Ground poultry: 165°F
    • Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts and chops: 145°F
    • Fresh pork: 160°F.
    • Whole poultry: 180°F for thighs; 170°F for breasts
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other food.
  • Don’t eat raw or partially cooked eggs or shellfish.
  • Cook foods as close to serving time as possible.
  • Marinate meats and poultry in the refrigerator.
  • Eat cooked leftovers within four days.

Take Action if You Suspect Food Poisoning

If you suspect food poisoning, call The University of Kansas Hospital Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Mild cases of food poisoning in adults can be treated at home.

  • Drink plenty of clear fluids.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or beverages that contain caffeine or sugar. Sports drinks should be diluted with water.
  • When nausea and vomiting stop, begin eating small amounts of bland foods, such as such as rice, bread, potatoes and milk.

Contact your doctor if a child younger than three has food poisoning or if:

  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea lasts for more than two days
  • Symptoms start after recent travel to a foreign country
  • You can’t keep down liquids or your prescribed medications
  • You have a disease or illness that weakens your immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer, kidney disease)
  • You experience slurred speech, muscle weakness, double vision or difficulty swallowing
  • You have a fever

You should go to the hospital emergency department if you experience:

  • Lightheadedness, fainting or problems with your vision
  • A fever of 101°F or higher
  • Sharp or abdominal pains that last for more than 10 minutes
  • A swollen stomach
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Blood in your vomit or bowel movements
  • Difficulty urinating or urine that’s dark in color
  • Problems breathing, speaking or swallowing
  • Swollen joints