Staphylococcal food poisoning is one of the most frequent foodborne illnesses worldwide and it is caused by the ingestion of food contaminated with enterotoxins produced by some strains of Staphylococcus (S.) aureus. In the State of Rio Grande do Sul (RS), Southern Brazil, S. aureus has been identified as the second most frequent agent of foodborne illnesses in the last two decades. The aim of the present study was to assess and analyse the epidemiological data of S. aureus food poisoning occurred in the State of RS during the years of 2000 to 2002. The official records of epidemiological investigations carried out by the Sanitary Surveillance Services of the State of RS were analysed. Among foodborne outbreaks for which aetiology was determined, S. aureus was identified as the responsible agent of 57 foodborne outbreaks, being 42 (74%) confirmed by microbiological analyses and 15 (26%) confirmed by clinical symptoms and/or epidemiological data. Staphylococcal outbreaks were responsible for the exposition of 5,991 persons, of which 1,940 (32%) were interviewed by the Sanitary Surveillance officers. The most affected age group corresponded to people with 20 to 49 years old (48%), where men (48%) and women (52%) were affected similarly. The main involved food vehicles were meats servings (35%), followed by pastries (25%), cheese (23%), pasta (11%) and potato salad with homemade mayonnaise (11%). The majority of the outbreaks occurred inside private homes (33%) followed by commercial food establishments (28%). Inadequate control of temperature and failures in general hygiene practices were identified as the main factors responsible for the outbreaks. In conclusion, S. aureus was an important food poisoning etiological agent in the State of RS during 2000 to 2002 and its prevention depends on control measures involving different parts of the food chain.