Food Poisoning

Foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, happens when you eat food containing harmful germs or organisms including bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. Many foods naturally contain small amounts of these germs and your body can usually handle them without getting sick.

Many people think food poisoning happens only when you go out to eat, but many cases happen right at home. Unsafe food handling allows harmful germs to to get into food, or multiply to the point where they can make you ill.

Food poisoning can be prevented if you follow food safety practices.

It is recommended that anyone planning to prepare and sell or give food to the public take a food safety training course. It is a requirement for most commercial food businesses.

Signs and symptoms

Food poisoning is often mistaken for other types of illnesses. It is not always easy to tell that your symptoms have been caused by eating food. You can start feeling sick anywhere from hours to over a week after eating contaminated food, so it's not always the last thing you ate.

Food poisoning may cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the cause. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Stomach pain

Seek medical attention immediately if your symptoms are severe. For a young child, an older adult, someone who is pregnant or is already ill, call or visit your doctor right away.

Making a complaint

Submit a complaint to Public Health if you:

  • Think you have food poisoning after eating from a food business in Waterloo Region. If the food business is outside of Waterloo Region, you can contact the local health unit where the business is located
  • Have concerns about the food safety practices at a food business in Waterloo Region

Call 519-575-4400 to make a complaint or report online

It is helpful for our investigation to know:

  • Where you ate
  • When you ate (date and time)
  • What you ate
  • What symptoms (a rash, for example) you have and when they first developed

To determine whether the illness was caused by the suspected food, it is important that you submit a stool sample to Public Health, or through your physician. Stool kits are available from the Public Health Inspector who speaks to you.

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