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Public Health Surveillance and Infectious Disease

Foodborne Illness (Food Poisoning)

What is Foodborne Illness?

Foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning, is caused by consuming contaminated food, beverages, or water and can be caused by a variety of bacteria, parasites, viruses and/or toxins. Many of these pathogens can be acquired through more than just food, beverages, or water. They may be acquired through person-to-person spread, animal contact, the environment, and recreational or drinking water.

Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

The incubation period (the time between exposure to the pathogen and onset of symptoms) may begin within hours after being exposed or may begin days later. Common symptoms of foodborne illness are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Fatigue 

Reporting Foodborne Illness

Have you or someone you know gotten sick from something you ate from a Nebraska food establishment like a restaurant or grocery store?

​​Did you or someone you know recently attend an event, for example a wedding,​ concert, conference, or retirement party, where other people became ill?

When two or more people from different households get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne outbreak.

Reporting illnesses to state and local health departments helps them identify potential outbreaks of foodborne disease.

​Public health officials investigate outbreaks to control them, so more people do not get sick and to learn how to prevent similar outbreaks from happening in the future.​​​

You can report a foodborne illness in two ways:

Food Safety/Sanitation Complaints

East Central District Health Department does NOT conduct grocery, restaurant, or other food establishment safety inspections.  If you have a food safety or sanitation complaint about a Nebraska grocery store or food establishment please visit the Nebraska Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Consumer Protection page, or call (402) 471-3422.

Food Safety and You

Everyone is at risk of getting a foodborne illness. However, some people are at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill or even dying from a foodborne illness:

  • Infants
  • Young children
  • Pregnant women and their unborn babies
  • Older adults
  • People with chronic disease and/or weakened immune systems​

To learn more about food safety, including food storage and preparation, and to see the latest food recall alerts, please visit our Food Safety Resources page. Or visit the CDC's Foodborne Germs and Illnesses page.