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Incubation Period for Food Poisoning

By Bailey Shoemaker Richards ; Updated July 27, 2017

Food poisoning is an extremely unpleasant condition that results from eating rotten or otherwise tainted food. The symptoms and effects of food poisoning can last for weeks, and some people require hospitalization.

Incubation Period

The period between when the contaminated food is ingested and the time when symptoms first appear is known as the incubation period, according to the CDC. The length of the incubation period depends on the quantity consumed and the type of organism.

Time Frame

Symptoms usually show up two to five hours after the food has been eaten, although it can take up to two days.


Different kinds of food poisoning cause different symptoms in the body as food passes through the digestive system. Nausea and vomiting are usually among the first symptoms. Diarrhea, fever, headaches and dizziness are also common.


The most common foodborne illnesses are caused by the bacteria Salmonella, E.coli and Campylobacter or the calicivirus.

Length of Illness

Most cases of food poisoning last only two to three days. If an individual is sick for longer than three days with no signs of improvement, it will become necessary to seek medical care.

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