Overview – foodborne illness

The risks of foodborne disease are present from farm to fork. Strategies and procedures, supported by research, help you control contamination and incidence. This page offers a summary.

About foodborne illness

Foodborne illness – also called foodborne disease and colloquially referred to as food poisoning – is any illness resulting from the consumption of contaminated food or beverages. Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne illnesses.  In addition, poisonous chemicals, or other harmful substances can cause foodborne diseases if they are present in food. In total, more than 250 different foodborne diseases have been described, but illnesses caused by the following bacteria are subject to most attention:

  • Campylobacter
  • Salmonella
  • Listeria


Most foodborne illnesses are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses and parasites. 


The symptoms of foodborne illness vary. The microbe or toxin enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract and often causes the first symptom there, so nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea are common indications of many foodborne diseases.

Strategies to minimise foodborne illness

Because the consequences of foodborne illness can be serious, you need to implement controls and procedures in your food operation to lessen the risk of anyone eating contaminated food. The controls and procedures vary depending on the type of food. For example, raw chicken is a high risk for Campylobacter and Salmonella. You can control the risks through meeting the legal requirements of one of the following:

  • Food Safety Programme (FSP)
  • Risk Management Programme (RMP), which is sometimes supported by the guidance in a Code of Practice (COP).

You can also use the guidance offered by Good Operating Practice (GOP) to implement hygienic procedures in your business.

MPI strategies

Industry and government work together to minimise foodborne illness. Strategies for Campylobacter, Salmonella and Listeria describe targets and actions specific to these 3 illness-causing bacteria. The strategies are supported by scientific research and reports.

What you will find here

The Foodborne illness section of the site is split into various sub-sections. Use the menu on the left to find your way around.

You can find detailed information in the following sub-sections:

Campylobacter – information about the causes, symptoms and effects of campylobacteriosis. Find out about the MPI strategy and how you can minimise the incidence of New Zealand's most common foodborne illness.

Salmonella – information about the causes, symptoms and effects of salmonellosis. Find out about about the MPI strategy and how you can minimise the incidence of this common illness.

Listeria – information about the causes, symptoms & effects of listeriosis. Find out about the MPI strategy and how you can minimise the incidence of this sometimes fatal illness.

Other foodborne organisms – information about how other bacteria, viruses and parasites cause illnesses such as Norovirus and Giardia. Find out how you can minimise the incidence of these less common illnesses.

Further sub-sections provide more generic information relevant to foodborne illnesses:

  • Documents – Find a full list of documents relating to Foodborne illness.
  • What's new – Check this page regularly for important updates relevant to Foodborne illness.

Related information

Advice specific to Foodborne illness is contained in this section. Make sure you also refer to your food sector and general food safety requirements, such as RMPs and FSPs that you may need to comply with.

Food sectors
General requirements & programmes

Keeping up to date

It's important to keep up to date with any new or revised Foodborne illness information, including requirements, consultations, strategies and other content changes. There are different ways to keep up to date – choose the methods that work best for you:

  • What's new – Click on What's new in the left-hand menu to read the most recent updates to Foodborne illness.
  • Get emails – Sign up to receive the latest MPI news by email. Click on the Get emails link at the bottom of any page to sign-up for email notifications.
  • Subscribe to feeds – Sign-up to receive news feeds. Click on the Subscribe to feeds link the bottom of any page to add to your list of news feeds.

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