8 Common Foodborne Illnesses And Their Symptoms

Our nation’s recent salmonella outbreak has rekindled discussions about foodborne illnesses and how they spread. The good news is that most of these illnesses can be avoided with proper food processing and preparation procedures along with simple hand washing. If you don’t know your botulism from your mad cow disease, CalorieLab has put together a list of 8 of the most prevalent foodborne illnesses and their symptoms. Check out the list, inside…

Botulism is caused by bacterial spores that lay dormant until conditions exist to support their growth and often occurrs when people can their own food. Symptoms include blurred vision, droopy eyelids, slurred speech and muscle weakness and usually occur 18 to 36 hours after ingesting the contaminated food.

Campylobacter is an illness caused by a bacteria with the same name. This is the bacteria infamous for thriving in undercooked chicken. It is the most common bacterial cause of diarrhea on earth.

E. Coli

Esherichia coli actually refers to a group of bacteria of which only a few are harmful. The bacteria live in the digestive tract of animals such as cattle, deer, goats and sheep. Typically, contamination occurs during the slaughter of the animal when bacteria escapes from the stomach and taints the meat. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting and sometimes a fever.


Listeria causes listerosis, a disease which is 20 times more likely to afflict pregnant women than other healthy adults. Infections are typically caused by uncooked meats, raw-milk cheese, vegetables or cold cuts which have been cross contaminated in a food preparation area. Initial symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea or diarrhea.

Mad Cow Disease

Also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, mad cow disease is a degenerative disease which affects the nervous system of cattle. Humans that consume the infected animals can develop a disease that is a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease which is always fatal. “Symptoms of vCJD include dementia, memory loss, hallucinations and personality changes paired with physical changes such as jerky movements, slurred speech, difficulty walking or changes in posture or gait and seizures.”


Infamous for running wild in cruise ships, it is a virus that can be contracted by coming in contact with a contaminated surface or from food preparers who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. Often, people think they have the flu but it is really Norovirus. Symptoms can start 12 to 48 hours after exposure and include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headaches and fatigue.

This is another bacteria that thrives in the intestinal tracts of animals. It is spread when the animal’s feces come into contact with food that isn’t cooked. Symptoms start 12 to 72 hours after exposure and include diarrhea, fever or abdominal cramps.


This is an infection that occurs when people eat wild mushrooms or domesticated pigs which contain larvae of the worm called trichinella. “This infection is pretty gross to describe. When you eat tainted meat, the larvae or cysts of the worms are ingested, and your stomach acid dissolves the cyst, releasing the worm, which matures in a couple of days in your small intestine.

The worms mate in there and the females lay eggs, which then develop into immature worms, travel through the arteries into the muscles and there form cysts again.

You might get a stomach ache, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue or fever in one or two days after eating tainted meat, and two to eight weeks later you may have further symptoms such as headaches, fever and chills, coughing, eye swelling, muscle or joint pain, itchy skin, constipation or diarrhea.”

For more details about each illness, check out the full article.

The big 8 foodborne illnesses and what they do to you [CalorieLab] (Thanks to Mark!)
(Photo: Getty)