Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2015;92(5):online

See related article on foodborne illness

What causes food poisoning?

Food poisoning happens after someone eats food that has germs or viruses in it.

How do I know if a food is bad?

It's not always easy to tell. Food recalls may be in the news when outbreaks happen. It's best to assume that all raw meats (including poultry), eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables could have germs.

How do I know if I have food poisoning?

Food poisoning usually causes stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The diarrhea may have blood in it. Some types of food poisoning can be very serious. It's important to let your doctor know if you think you might have it.

How can I keep from getting sick?

Pay attention to food recall notices, and don't eat food that has been recalled. Only eat shellfish that have been cooked or treated for safe eating. Never cook for others if you have diarrhea or have been vomiting. When preparing food, remember: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

  • Clean. Wash your hands and anything else that touches raw meat (including cutting boards and countertops). Don't wash raw meat or eggs. This can actually spread germs to other foods. Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Separate. Don't let raw meat touch other foods. Use different cutting boards for meat and vegetables.

  • Cook. Cook food to a safe temperature (see table on next page). Don't drink unpasteurized dairy products or juices.

  • Chill. Put foods that belong in the refrigerator away as soon as possible. Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

FoodInternal temperature
Egg dishes160°F
EggsCook until yolks and whites are firm
Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb145°F with a 3-minute rest time
Ground meat
Beef, pork, veal, and lamb160°F
Turkey and chicken165°F
Fresh (raw)145°F with a 3-minute rest time
Precooked (to reheat)140°F
Leftovers and casseroles165°F
Chicken and turkey, whole165°F
Duck and goose165°F
Poultry parts165°F
Stuffing (cooked in bird)165°F
Clams, oysters, and musselsCook until shells open
Fish145°F or until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork
ScallopsCook until flesh is firm and milky white or opaque
Shrimp, lobster, and crabsCook until flesh is pearly and opaque

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