November is National Diabetes Month, the perfect time to remember that food safety is important for everybody but critical for people with diabetes, who are more susceptible to infection and other viruses that cause foodborne illnesses.

Various organs and systems of the body are affected when people with diabetes contract food poisoning, which can lead to more prolonged bouts of illness, hospitalization and even death. This heightened risk is why practicing food safety is so important in managing diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Technically, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), “Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough — or any — insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells. Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems.

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes. It is also called “adult onset” diabetes, since it typically develops after age 35. Type 2 affects the way the body processes blood sugar, or glucose.

Type 1 is the more serious form of the disease. It is also known as “juvenile diabetes,” because it usually develops in children and teenagers. In Type 1, the pancreas produces little or no insulin.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 30.3 million Americans (9.4% of the population) had diabetes in 2015, and approximately 1.25 million of those had Type 1.

Symptoms of food poisoning

After consuming contaminated food or drink, it can take hours or even days before symptoms develop.

“Most people have only mild illnesses, lasting a few hours to several days,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “However, some develop severe illness requiring hospitalization, and some illnesses result in long-term health problems or even death. Infections transmitted by food can result in chronic arthritis, brain and nerve damage, and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney failure.”

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and differ depending on the germ. The most common symptoms include:

  • upset stomach
  • abdominal cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fever.

Learn more during National Diabetes Month

To learn more about safe selection and preparation of foods for people with diabetes, get the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Drug Administration’s free booklet, “Food Safety for People with Diabetes”:

  • Download at
  • Order a copy by calling 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854)
  • Email to request a copy

Report immediately

If you think you or a family member has contracted a foodborne illness, contact your health-care provider immediately. When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is considered an outbreak. Reporting these situations helps authorities identify potential outbreaks of foodborne disease.

Also, report the suspected foodborne illness to the FDA by contacting the Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your area, as well as MedWatch, the FDA’s Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program (1-800-FDA-1088).

Elliot OlsenFree consultation

Elliot Olsen has more than 20 years of experience representing people harmed by foodborne illnesses, and he has regained millions of dollars in compensation for his clients. If you or a family member has become sick and believe that negligence played a role, please contact him at 612-337-6126, or complete the following: