Exposed to a foodborne illness?

If you suspect you have been exposed to a foodborne illness, please contact the Summit County Health Department at 435-333-1511. We will begin an investigation and try to help prevent the further spread of the illness. Please visit your doctor if necessary.

We do not provide medical services.

Foodborne Illness – Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph) Infection

Staphylococcus aureus (often referred to as “Staph”) is a common cause of foodborne illness. It is a bacterium that produces a poison/toxin which causes the illness.


Symptoms are usually rapid and in many cases serious, depending on individual response to the toxin, the amount of contaminated food eaten, the amount of toxin in the food ingested, and the general health of the victim. Some individuals may not always demonstrate all the symptoms associated with the illness. Recovery generally takes two days. However, it is not unusual for complete recovery to take three days or longer. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Prostration
  • In more severe cases, headache, muscle cramping, and changes in blood pressure and pulse rate may occur.
How It Is Spread
  • People can contract the illness by eating food that is contaminated with any one of many strains of staph, usually because the food has not been kept hot enough or cold enough. Staph bacteria grow and reproduce at temperatures from 50ºF to 120ºF, with the most rapid growth occurring near body temperature (about 98ºF).
  • Foods that are frequently implicated in staphylococcal food poisoning include:
    • Meat and meat products;
    • Poultry and egg products;
    • Salads such as egg, tuna, chicken, potato, and macaroni;
    • Bakery products such as cream-filled pastries, cream pies, and chocolate eclairs;
    • Sandwich fillings;
    • Milk and dairy products;
    • Foods that require considerable handling during preparation and kept at improper temperatures after preparation;
    • Raw milk and raw milk products.
Diagnosis & Treatment
  • The bacteria can be identified from a food sample.
  • Most people recover without treatment.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after all food preparation.
  • Any food service worker who has skin infections should not be handling food.
  • Food preparation equipment must be thoroughly washed before it is used.
  • Refrigerate meats and leftovers promptly.
  • Keep hot foods hot (over 140ºF) and cold foods cold (below 45ºF).
  • Employees must bandage burns, cuts or sores on their hands and cover the area with disposable food service gloves.
  • The toxin produced by staph bacteria is very heat-stable – so it is not easily destroyed by heat at normal cooking temperatures. The bacteria may be killed, but the toxin remains. Careful handling of food that is prepared ahead of serving is important. This is especially important with foods left over after one meal and planned to be used again at a later meal. Quick cooling and refrigeration, or holding at or above 140ºF, can help ensure that toxin has no chance to be formed.

Contact Us

Environmental Health Division, Summit County Health Department

650 Round Valley Drive, Park City, Utah 84060
Phone: 435-333-1511, Fax: 435-333-1580