People get foodborne illnesses by eating contaminated food. These illnesses are frequently referred to as food poisoning, which is not entirely accurate because they include infections and injuries in addition to poisonings. These illnesses can be caused by physical, chemical or biological hazards. Most of these illnesses are caused by microorganisms referred to as pathogens. Food borne illnesses often are not reported so an investigation is not done and a cause is never determined. Another reason that a cause is unknown is because the person never goes to a doctor for diagnosis. The symptoms caused by these pathogens can be mild in some people and they recover within a few days or more severe in others. The illness also may not occur until hours or even days after the contaminated food is eaten so most people do not associate the illness with something they ate. Unfortunately physicians may not test for food related pathogens when they see a patient since their focus is often treating the illness and not discovering the cause.

Preventing the spread of pathogens is a major focus of food safety. Educating food handlers about personal hygiene practices and the proper practices in cooking and storing food are the main control measures in food establishments and homes. The following links direct you to more specific information about pathogens and biological hazards, commonly associated with foodborne illnesses in Missouri.