February 9, 2024

Food Poisoning From Pizza

Learn more about food poisoning from pizza. Uncover the potential hazards lurking in every slice, from undercooked ingredients to cross-contamination. We’ll shed light on symptoms and prevention strategies. Learn how to safeguard against culinary mishaps and ensure your dining experiences are always safe and enjoyable, whether out at a restaurant or in your own home.

friends eating pizza
  • High-risk pizza toppings like sausage, pepperoni, and cheese can contain harmful bacteria such as Listeria if mishandled.
  • The Department of Agriculture advises that pizza should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours to prevent bacterial growth in the “danger zone” between 40–140°F.
  • Real-life foodborne illness outbreaks, such as the norovirus outbreaks linked to pizza restaurants in Washington and Minnesota, highlight the importance of safe food handling practices.
  • Proper storage and cooking, adhering to the Department of Agriculture’s guidelines, can significantly reduce the risk of food poisoning from pizza, with recommended cooking temperatures ranging from 145° to 165° Fahrenheit for various ingredients.

Can You Get Food Poisoning From Pizza?

It’s absolutely possible to get food poisoning from pizza when improperly handling the ingredients, cooking methods, and storage of leftovers. Different types of pizzas require particular handling instructions to avoid bacteria or other pathogen growth that can lead to foodborne illnesses.

If pizza manufacturers, restaurant staff, or other trained food professionals fail to prevent food poisoning, you risk developing serious digestive symptoms and bacterial infections. 

What Causes Food Poisoning From Pizza?

There are different ingredients that make up a pizza, and therefore, various ways for dangerous pathogens to develop. In general, pizza consists of dough, sauce, and toppings.

Pizza Dough

Pizza dough is typically made from flour, yeast, water, salt, and sometimes olive oil. While flour may look harmless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to flour as a raw food that must be treated to prevent food poisoning. The flour in raw dough or undercooked dough may carry germs that can make you sick.

Pizza Sauce

Even when you purchase jarred pizza sauce, it can still have mold or bacterial growth if the sauce is not bottled correctly. Also, the ingredients that make up the sauce may have been mishandled or not cooked enough to kill harmful germs.

Pizza Toppings

Everybody has pizza topping preferences. However, some toppings carry a higher risk of food poisoning than others. For example, sausage, pepperoni, and other meats can contain Listeria or other bacteria. If mishandled, other high-risk ingredients that may cause food poisoning include cheese, seafood, and vegetables.

Improper Handling

Poor handling of the dough, sauce, or toppings and bad cooking practices can lead to food poisoning from pizza. Some examples include:

When pizza is left out or not prepared correctly, bacteria will quickly multiply. Common types of bacteria and parasites you might find on contaminated pizza are:

How Do You Know if Pizza Has Gone Bad?

In some cases, it will be obvious that pizza has spoiled. However, bacteria growth is not always apparent right away. Here are ways to check if you should ditch the leftovers to avoid food poisoning:

has pizza gone bad infographic

Is It Safe to Eat Pizza Left Out Overnight?

According to the Department of Agriculture, always refrigerate any leftovers as soon as possible to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. When pizza is left out at room temperature overnight, it is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Referred to as the “danger zone,” temperatures between 40–140°F are where bacteria and other pathogens thrive.

Leftovers, including pizza, can safely sit out for two hours in most indoor settings but should not be left out for more than one hour in temperatures over 90° F. If food is left out for longer than the recommended time, discard the leftovers to prevent food poisoning.

Food Poisoning From Frozen Pizza

Frozen pizzas also pose a potential risk of food poisoning. Sometimes, the ingredients are contaminated during the manufacturing or packaging process. You can develop a serious foodborne illness if you don’t cook the pizza to the necessary temperature to kill the germs.

Following the cooking directions for frozen pizza is crucial to reduce the risk of food poisoning. While most bacteria, such as E. coli, cannot survive high temperatures, some strains are becoming more heat-resistant. Also, oven temperatures and cooking times may vary. Consider using a food thermometer to ensure the frozen pizza reaches the advised temperature before consuming it.

In addition, pay close attention to expiration dates for frozen pizzas. It is unsafe to keep food longer than intended, even when frozen. If the frozen pizza has expired, dispose of it.

Real Cases of Food Poisoning Outbreaks From Pizza

Requirements for safe food handling are the result of research and learning from real-life foodborne illness outbreaks that seriously impacted consumers. Some examples of pizza food poisoning include:

Norovirus Outbreak in Washington

Public Health Seattle County investigated a norovirus outbreak traced back to The Rock Wood Fired Pizza in October 2021. Fourteen people became ill with norovirus after eating at the restaurant.

Norovirus Outbreak in Minnesota

norovirus outbreak in 2020 stemmed from a restaurant in Bloomington, Minnesota. Officials connected the build-your-own pizza establishment to eleven infected people.

Ezzo Sausage Company Recall for Listeria Contamination

In 2019, several samples of pizza toppings from Ezzo Sausage Company tested positive for Listeria, a bacteria that infects the gastrointestinal tract. As a precaution, the company recalled 25,000 pounds of sausage and pepperoni products. Although it wasn’t an outbreak, this situation shows there are contaminated pizza toppings that can potentially make you sick.

Tips for Storing and Preparing Pizza

When storing leftover pizza or ingredients, always follow the directions included in the packaging. If there are no specific instructions, the Department of Agriculture recommends the following:

  1. Do not leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.
  2. Wrap leftovers in airtight packaging or food storage containers.
  3. Keep wrapped food in the refrigerator for three or four days or in the freezer for three to four months.

When preparing pizza, cook it to the recommended temperature. Here are the minimum cooking temperatures for ingredients you may find on a pizza:

Always check that the pizza crust cooks through and the cheese melts evenly. If you notice any element of the pizza is not thoroughly cooked, continue cooking until all ingredients reach the necessary temperature.

Contact Keep Food Safe to Speak With a Food Safety Lawyer

If you experience food poisoning from pizza and suspect a restaurant or food handler is responsible, contact us today. The team at Keep Food Safe can connect you with a dedicated food safety attorney who will determine if you qualify to take legal action.


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