Food Illness Investigations

About Foodborne Illness

"Foodborne illness in the United States is a major cause of personal distress, preventable death, and avoidable economic burden," as stated by the Food and Drug Administration. It has been estimated that from 6.5 to 33 million people become ill from microorganisms in food, resulting in as many as 9,000 needless deaths every year. The wide range in cases of foodborne illness is due to the uncertainty about the number that go unreported. The annual cost of foodborne illness in terms of pain and suffering, reduced productivity, and medical costs is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

Foodborne Illness Symptoms

The Bureau of Environmental Health responds to all reports of suspected foodborne illnesses implicating food sold or served in Norfolk. Signs and symptoms vary, but common symptoms include vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Most cases of foodborne illness last between 24 to 48 hours. Symptoms generally appear between 2 to 36 hours after eating the suspected food. Most cases are single cases and not associated with large outbreaks; however, many times the health department hears about outbreaks involving groups attending the same function.

Reporting Suspected Foodborne Illness

To file a complaint concerning a food related illness, call 757-683-2712. For additional information on foodborne illnesses visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Our goals are to identify the foods responsible for the illness, collect accurate and complete information from the persons involved, collect samples of the suspected food, when possible and appropriate, identify possible contributing factors, correct the improper food handling practices that may have contributed to the illness.

When reporting a suspected foodborne illness, the following information will be needed: name, address, phone number complainant, where suspect meal or food item was obtained, the facility's address and any contact people, date and time meal consumed, a 72-hour food history (to include all foods eaten and beverages consumed in the three days prior to the first sign of illness), names and phone numbers of others that have become ill, onset of symptoms, description of symptoms, any medical contact. To register a complaint, please call 757-683-2712.