Foodborne illness (sometimes called "foodborne disease," "foodborne infection," or "food poisoning") is a common, costly—yet preventable—public health problem. Each year, it is estimated that 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different kinds of foodborne infections. In addition, poisonous chemicals or other harmful substances that might be present in foods can cause foodborne illnesses.

More than 250 different foodborne illnesses have been described. Most of these diseases are infections caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can enter your body from the food you eat.

Other illnesses are poisonings caused by harmful toxins or chemicals that have contaminated the food; for example, poisonous mushrooms.

These different illnesses have many different symptoms, so there is no one "syndrome" that is foodborne illness. However, the microbe or toxin enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract and often causes the first symptoms there, so nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea are common symptoms in many foodborne illnesses.