Food can smell, look, or taste okay, but still contain harmful microorganisms that can make you very sick. Microorganisms that cause food to become spoiled are not the same as those that cause foodborne illness. However, food spoilage is a warning sign that conditions could be ideal for the type of microorganism that can make you very sick.
Symptoms of foodborne illness are similar to flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fatigue. Often symptoms will last for about 3 days. However, due to their weakened immune systems, infants, young children, older adults, pregnant women, and those suffering from a chronic illness are at increased risk for suffering more serious side effects from foodborne illness including fever, blurred vision, jaundice, seizures, paralysis, and even death.
The best ways to prevent foodborne illness are to focus on the 5 principles of food saftey:
1. Avoid purchasing food from unsafe sources
2. Keep it clean
3. Separate, don't cross-contaminate
4. Don't be risky with time and temperature when preparing and storing food
5. Practice personal hygiene
And always remember the most basic principle: "when in doubt, throw it out!" For more information about the 5 basic food safety principles see Food Safety Thrives When You Focus on Five.