Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illness, (also called food poisoning) is caused by eating and drinking contaminated foods or beverages. Foodborne illness is a common and costly public health problem. Each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing germs can contaminate foods, so there are many different types of illnesses. Foodborne illness is preventable. Learn how to protect yourself from foodborne illness.

Video: What is foodborne illness?

Notify Us About a Foodborne Illness or a Food Safety Concern

Use the Foodborne Illness Notification System (FINS) to tell us about confirmed or suspected food poisoning, or other food safety concern about a restaurant or place that serves food in Washington State. 

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If you experience any technical difficulties using FINS, contact us

Video: How to Report a Foodborne Illness in Washington State

What is FINS?

The Foodborne Illness Notification System (FINS) is an online platform, where users can notify their health department about a potential illness related to food(s) they ate or other food safety concerns. 

Last Meal Note

People often associate their illness with the last food or meal they consumed. While some germs can cause illness as quickly as 30 minutes, many germs take up to three days or longer to develop symptoms. When thinking about what might have made you sick, this is why it is helpful to review and share the food items you ate over the last several days. 

Importance of Making a Notification

Notifying us about your foodborne illness helps to identify outbreaks and prevent the spread of illness to others. Health departments track notifications of illness and look for groups of people who have similar illnesses and ate at the same location or foods.

Which Agency Oversees Food Products?

Different agencies oversee different types of food facilities. The below table provides a general overview of different types of food products and facilities.  

Food Facility Type Regulatory Authority Contact Information
Restaurants, retail grocery stores, convenience stores, food trucks, farmers markets, state owned and operated food service (not providing medical care) State and Local County Health Departments Washington State Local Health Jurisdictions
Washington State food processing plants, food storage warehouses, cottage food operations, dairy business, custom meat facilities, marijuana infused edibles  Washington State Department of Agriculture Food Complaints, WSDA
Restaurants, coffee shops, etc. located on UW Campuses University of Washington Campuses 206-606-1623
Products produced out of Washington State US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Consumer Complaint Coordinators, FDA
Meat, poultry, egg products US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Report a Problem with Food, USDA
Hospital cafeterias, prisons, state operated facilities (providing medical treatment) Office of Health Systems Oversight
Washington State Nursing Homes, Long Term Care Facilities, Adult Family Homes Department of Social and Health Services  Report Concerns Involving Vulnerable Adults, DSHS
Childcare facilities operating more than 4 hours/day Department of Children, Youth, & Families 866-363-4276


When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne illness outbreak. View a list of foodborne illness outbreak investigations and current state and national outbreaks.

You can also sign up for our Foodborne Illness Outbreak Alert emails.

Common Causes of Foodborne Illness

People at High Risk

Everyone is at risk for foodborne illness. People at higher risk for developing an illness include:

  • Infants and children under 5.
  • Older adults over 65.
  • Pregnant women and their unborn babies.
  • People with weakened immune systems.
  • People traveling outside the U.S.

More Resources

Family Food Safety – Food safety videos, food recalls, and more.

Community Food Safety – Food worker card, food code rules, restaurant inspections, and local health agency contacts.

Public Health Partners: Report Foodborne Disease Outbreaks


Content Source: Communicable Disease Epidemiology, Food Safety Program