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Foodborne illness

Eating bacteria, viruses, or toxins in food causes food-borne illness. It spreads when people eat contaminated or undercooked meat, poultry, shellfish, fish, or other foods. It can also happen by drinking contaminated water.

In Boston, if you suspect a foodborne illness, you should report it to the BPHC at 617-534-5611. A public health nurse will ask you what your symptoms are, what you have eaten in the past few days, and where you have eaten. All information is confidential.


Restaurants suspected of being the cause of one or more cases of foodborne illness are subject to inspection. The BPHC works with the Boston Inspectional Services for the inspection. Inspectional Services department is the city agency that inspects restaurants in the city of Boston. They will perform a complete inspection to determine if the restaurant is adhering to sanitary codes.

The city has designed a user-friendly website called the Mayor's Food Court. Here you can explore a restaurant's inspection history.

Food safety campaigns

The BPHC has public awareness campaigns that promote food safety and reduce foodborne illness. These campaigns include brochures, fact sheets, and videos. These materials focus on proper food safety and are available in several languages. By following a simple checklist, residents can keep their food and families healthy:

  • Chill
  • Clean
  • Separate
  • Cook

Materials are available for free to community health centers, hospitals, senior citizen centers, and other agencies. To request copies of the brochures or videos, please contact us.

Food product recall

Grocery stores will remove food from shelves in the event of a recall caused by contamination. BPHC urges consumers to check at home for recalled products and throw the product away. For a complete list of food recalls, go to:

US Centers for ​Disease Control

US Food and Drug Administration

US Department of Agriculture

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