Office of Epidemiology & Statistics

Foodborne Illness

To promote resident health, we continuously monitor and, as necessary, investigate complaints of foodborne illness in DeKalb County.

What is foodborne illness?

Foodborne illness is often called ‘food poisoning’. It occurs when someone becomes ill after eating a food or drinking a beverage contaminated with a harmful substance, such as bacteria, virus, parasite, natural toxin, or chemical. Some substances cause illness within minutes, while others take several hours, days, or even weeks. So remember, it’s not always the last food eaten that caused the illness. The food that caused the illness may actually have been eaten several days before the illness began, if it was caused by food at all.

Many germs can spread in more than one way, so we cannot always know that an illness was caused by food. For example, one of the most common causes of gastrointestinal illness (vomiting and diarrhea) is a virus called norovirus. This virus can be spread through food, but can also be spread person to person like a cold or flu.

How do I report a foodborne or suspected foodborne illness?

If you believe your illness was caused by eating at a DeKalb County commercial food establishment (restaurant, deli or caterer) call the DeKalb County Environmental Health Division at (404) 508-7900.

Where can I get more information?

Food and Drug Administration’s Foodborne Illness page:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Frequently Asked Questions about Foodborne Illness: