What should I do if I think I have a foodborne illness?

Foodborne illnesses should be reported to your local board of health or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  Call any of the following:

  • the local board of health in the town in which the suspect food was eaten or purchased, or
  • the local board of health in the town in which you live, or
  • the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Division of Food and Drugs at 617-983-6712, or
  • the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617-983-6800.

If you are a food worker, report it to the Person-in-Charge where you work.

For more information: Massachusetts Department of Public Health - Foodborne Illness: What Is It and How To Report It. 

Should I be concerned about:

Fresh spinach, salad greens or other fresh produce?
Massachusetts and federal food safety experts recommend that all fresh produce be handled safely from purchasing through storage, preparation and serving or eating. Before you buy, always check fresh produce to be sure it is free from soil and bruising.  Before eating or serving always wash your hands and rinse the produce thoroughly with cold water.

For more information: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Buying Tips for Fresh Produce

Eating fish?
Fish and shellfish are packed with protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients good for the eyes, brain and heart.  Children under 12 years old; pregnant women, nursing mothers and women who may become pregnant should not eat fish from certain fresh water sources or certain fish and shellfish caught in some Massachusetts coastal waters.  These fish may contain mercury which can cause damage to the nervous system.

For more information:
Guide to Eating Fish Safely in Massachusetts

What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish

Seafood Safety
Summer is Seafood Time in Massachusetts

Codworms in fish?
Seafood experts say that round worms (Nematodes) occur naturally in Codfish. Codfish get these cold-loving parasites from the natural ocean environment, often in areas where seals live.  Most infected fillets are caught during the inspection process and the worms are removed at the manufacturer through a process called candling. Every so often one gets by.  When properly cooked (145 °F), Codfish is safe to eat. The worm(s) should not survive this cooking process.

Is it OK to use household bleach to sanitize my kitchen?

Yes, the chlorine in household bleach kills germs when the concentration is right and the temperature of the water is warm enough. Read the label on the bleach container.  It should be unscented, have sodium hypochlorite as an active ingredient and state that it is approved for use with food equipment and utensils – not just the laundry or bathrooms.

Where can I find classes or training for the food manager certification exam?

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Food Protection Program has a directory of organizations and trainers who meet instructor qualifications and administers one of three accredited Food Manager Certification exams.

For more information: https://www.mass.gov/doc/massachusetts-food-protection-manager-certification-exam-and-trainer-directory/download?_ga=2.34497249.1124840144.1617639070-1981703905.1610130552

Where can I find food safety education materials in different languages?

The Massachusetts Partnership for Food Safety Education has developed easy-to-read materials on basic food safety principles that have been translated into a variety of languages. Check each material on the site to access translated languages.


Where can I find information about canning foods safely at home?

The National Center for Home Food Preservation www.uga.edu/nchfp/index.html and Penn State’s Resources for Home Food Preservation http://foodsafety.psu.edu/preserve.html have print materials and video demonstrations of all types of home food preservation techniques such as canning, freezing, drying, curing, smoking, fermenting, pickling, making jams and jellies). 

I’ve been thinking about starting my own food business, what regulations do I know about?

New England Food Entrepreneurs (nefoodproducers.org) is a comprehensive website developed by the New England Extension Food Safety Consortium to help you get started, maintain and expand a specialty food business.  Information and resources will help you learn about production, marketing, and state and federal requirements to develop a safe process, a safe product, and grow your business.   

For more information:  

Food Science: Starting a Small Food Business | UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment