FACTSHEET: the Most Dangerous Foodborne Pathogens 

PathoSans Foodborne illness

The CDC estimates that, every year, 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses. Since contamination can occur at any part of the food production chain, it is vitally important that food handlers from the farm to the restaurant, from the dairy to the grocery store, understand how to fight foodborne pathogens and prevent infection.

The following foodborne pathogens are the most dangerous ones faced by food handlers, either due to their prevalence or due to the seriousness of the resulting illnesses. With each pathogen, we provided common sources of the pathogen and prevention tips.


Symptoms: diarrhea, fever, vomiting

Sources: raw or undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk, untreated water

Prevention: cook food properly at 148°F for two to three minutes


Symptoms: diarrhea, headaches, cramping, sickness, fever

Sources: raw meat, eggs, milk, seafood

Prevention: cook food properly at 148°F for two to three minutes, practice regular hand washing

PathoSans Foodborne Illnesses

Properly cook food to prevent foodborne illness.

Staphylococcus Aureus

Symptoms: vomiting, pain, diarrhea

Sources: uncooked and handled food, unpasteurized milk and cheese

Prevention: practice good hand washing, personal hygiene, and kitchen sanitation

Clostridium perfringens

Symptoms: nausea, pain, diarrhea

Sources: undercooked meats

Prevention: cook and store foods at the right temperatures

Clostridium Botulinum

Symptoms: vision problems, paralysis

Sources: canned meat and vegetables, meat and fish.

Prevention: use all canned food before the use-by date, regularly discard cans that are expired, damaged or swollen

E-Coli (Escherichia coli)

Symptoms: inflammation of the intestines, sickness, diarrhea

Sources: ground meat, unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses, fruits and vegetable exposed to contaminated water

Prevention: cook food properly


Symptoms: cramping, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Sources: salads, sandwiches, unwashed vegetables

Prevention: practice good hand washing, personal hygiene, and kitchen sanitation

PathoSans Foodborne illness hand washing

Regular hand washing can help prevent foodborne illness.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus

Symptoms: diarrhea, fever, septic shock

Sources: seafood

Prevention: cook fish well, avoid cross-contamination between cooked and raw fish


Symptoms: stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Sources: shellfish, ice, raw fruit and vegetables, ready-to-eat foods

Prevention: regular hand washing and good kitchen sanitation

Toxoplasma gondii

Symptoms:  swollen lymph glands, muscle aches, eye pain, blurry vision

Sources: undercooked and raw meat

Prevention: cook food properly, freeze meat properly, practice good kitchen sanitation

Many Different Pathogens, One Infection Prevention Program

Of the most dangerous foodborne pathogens, some are common and less serious, like Salmonella and Staphylococcus. Other pathogens, like Clostridium Botulinum and Vibrio, are both rare and highly dangerous. Whatever type of food is being prepared, every food handler should practice good hand washing, personal hygiene, and kitchen sanitation to help prevent foodborne pathogens from causing infection and illness.







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