Washington State University

Food Safety Extension & Research

Food Safety Information


Consumers are an important line of defense to prevent foodborne illness.

Proper handling of foods in the home can reduce the risk of foodborne illness significantly.  Observation of safe food handling practices and proper handwashing enhance foods safety systems.

You Can Prevent Foodborne Illnesses!

Foodborne illnesses can fool you. When you’re sick and up half the night with a headache, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea, you probably blame it on what you ate last. You may be blaming the wrong food, however, for it can take 24 or 36 hours, even up to several days, for you to get sick from some of the pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) that cause foodborne illness. You also might be surprised to know that you could just as easily have gotten sick from food prepared at home, as from eating food prepared elsewhere or from eating in a restaurant.

Foodborne illnesses affect millions of Americans each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Estimate that in the United States alone there are 76 million cases of foodborne illnesses each year, and that these result in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.

You can reduce your risk of getting foodborne illnesses by following the Food Safety Guidelines (on the right), and by remembering that prevention of foodborne illnesses starts when you buy food, and continues when you store, prepare, cook and serve the food at home.


  • Foodborne illness is any illness that comes from a food you eaten. Foodborne infection is an illness that results from eating food contaminated by a pathogen, which results in an infection in the person who ate the food.
  • All foodborne illnesses used to be called food poisoning. However, food poisoning is the term used when a substance that is poisonous to humans is consumed, including toxins produced by some types of bacteria.
  • microorganism or microbe is an organism so small that it cannot be seen without a microscope. Bacteria and viruses and some parasites are microorganisms. See Bugs That Make You Sick
  • pathogen is something that causes illness, and the word “germ” is generally used to mean the same thing. Pathogens vary in their infective doses – the number of the microorganism you need to swallow in order to become sick. It takes fewer microorganisms to make you sick when a pathogen has allow infective dose.
  • case of foodborne illness is a single person who is sick. An outbreak is when two or more individuals from different households have a similar illness from consuming the same food.

Special Precautions
for High-Risk Groups

Food Safety Extension & Research, 106 FSHN Bldg Pullman, WA 99164-6376, 509-335-2845, Contact Us
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