Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases

Foodborne and diarrheal diseases are caused by consuming food or beverages that are contaminated by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Some diseases may be caused by toxins or chemicals if they are present in the food. Individuals may also be exposed to these same pathogens through recreational water sports, contact with animals, and through person-to-person spread.

More information about foodborne and diarrheal diseases:


  • Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin. The toxin attacks the body's nerves and causes difficulty breathing and muscle paralysis. The bacteria that produce these toxins make spores and under certain conditions, these spores can infect people. Improperly home-canned, preserved, or fermented foods can provide the right conditions for spores to grow and make botulinum toxin (botulism).


  • Campylobacter are bacteria that cause diarrheal disease in humans. People can get Campylobacter infection by eating raw or undercooked poultry or by eating something that touched the raw or undercooked poultry. People can also get sick with Campylobacteriosis from consuming seafood, meat, produce, or untreated drinking water, or by contact with animals.


  • Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal illness caused by a parasite. These parasites can live in the intestines of animals and infected humans. "Crypto" is most commonly spread via contaminated drinking water and recreational water, but you can also get sick from drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk. Anyone can get sick with Crypto, but people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe symptoms.


  • Cyclosporiasis is a diarrheal illness caused by a parasite. This parasite infects the small intestine and usually causes diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and bloating. People can become infected by consuming contaminated food or water. Cyclosporiasis occurs in many countries, but is most common in tropical regions.

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

  • E. coli are bacteria found in the environment, foods, and in intestines of people and animals. There are hundreds of different strains of E. coli. The most serious strains are called shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC). These strains can cause bloody diarrhea. Other strains can cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, and other illnesses.


  • Giardiasis is a diarrheal illness caused by a parasite, Giardia, that affects both humans and pets. The parasite is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces. People can get giardiasis by swallowing contaminated water, eating uncooked food that contains Giardia organisms, or by traveling to countries where giardiasis is common.

Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the stool and blood of infected people. Hepatitis A is very contagious, and is spread when someone ingests the virus through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated foods. Symptoms of hepatitis A include fatigue, nausea, stomach pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin).


  • Listeriosis is an infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria, Listeria. Pregnant women, newborns, adults aged 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk for severe illness. The bacteria have been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in unpasteurized (raw) milk. Listeriosis causes an infection of the bloodstream and can sometimes affect other parts of the body including bones and joints.


  • Norovirus is a contagious virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain. This virus is known for causing the "stomach flu" and is the most common cause of foodborne outbreaks. Norovirus is extremely contagious and can spread rapidly through congregate facilities. It can spread from person-to-person or through ingesting contaminated food and drink.


  • Salmonella is caused by a bacteria and over one million people in the US are infected each year. Most people that are infected with salmonella have diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps and the infection typically lasts 4 to 7 days. People can get salmonella from contaminated food and drinking water, or by having contact with infected animals and their environment.

Scombroid Poisoning


  • Shigellosis is caused by a bacteria, Shigella. Shigella can be spread easily from one person to another, and it only takes a small amount of bacteria to cause illness. Most infections are the result of bacteria passing from feces of one person to the mouth of another. This can occur from poor handwashing or doing certain types of sexual activity. Symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain.


  • There are multiple types of Vibrio bacteria that cause illness. These bacteria live in certain coastal waters and are present between May and October when water temperatures are warmer. Most people become infected with vibriosis by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters. People with compromised immune systems are more likely to be infected. Symptoms of vibriosis are diarrhea, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.

Maine Resources

  • Bacterial Enteric Diseases Surveillance Reports: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022 (PDF)
  • Food Safety Poster (PDF)
  • Stay Healthy While Caring for Chicks or Ducklings (PDF)
  • Maine Health Inspection Program
  • Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
  • Maine Department of Marine Resources
  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Food Safety
  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Food Preservation
  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Cooking for Crowds
  • Food Safety Resources

  • Safe Handling of Fruits and Vegetables
  • Nationwide Outbreaks
  • US CDC Food Safety
  • United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Bad Bug Book
  • FDA Recall Site
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service
  • Safe Travel Recommendations
  • Raw Milk Safety
  • Animal Safety Resources

  • Diarrheal Diseases from Animals
  • Healthy Pets, Healthy People
  • FDA: Raw foods and pets
  • For more information or questions related to foodborne diseases, call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.