What is foodborne illness and what are the symptoms?
Foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning, can be caused by a variety of microbes such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. Harmful toxins or chemicals present in food also may cause foodborne illness.
Different causes of food poisoning cause different symptoms, so there is no one syndrome that is foodborne illness; however, common symptoms include abdominal cramping, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, fatigue, and body aches.
Generally, after contaminated food is consumed there is a delay before food poisoning symptoms start. This delay is called the “incubation period”. The incubation period of a foodborne illness can range from less than an hour (which is rare) to days or weeks, and depends on the organism causing the illness and the amount ingested. This means that the last foods consumed before symptoms start are not always the source of a person’s illness.
O. Peter Snyder, Jr. Ph.D., with the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management, prepared charts on the incubation period and symptoms for several causes of foodborne illness. Below are links to the detailed charts.