Name: Food Poisoning
Description: Food Poisoning

Food Poisoning

What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is a general term applied to illnesses picked up from eating contaminated food or drinking water. Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

The incubation period (time taken from eating the food to feeling unwell) varies with each type of organism (bug) and in some cases can be 10-15 days after consumption of the food. It is therefore important to realise that the last meal you ate may not be the cause of your symptoms. Also food doesn't need to smell or look 'off' to be contaminated with food poisoning bacteria.

What causes food poisoning?

There are many different organisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause upset stomachs. It is important to note that having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have food poisoning.

Norovirus - The most common cause of upset stomachs in the UK is from a viral infection called Norovirus. This is also known as the 'winter vomiting bug'. It only lasts for 24 to 48 hours and recovery is usually quick. It is not necessarily associated with eating contaminated food, and is easily passed from person to person.

Visit NHS Choices for more information on Norovirus and Food Poisoning. The links at the bottom of the page also give specific information on various food poisoning organisms.

What to do if you have symptoms of food poisoning

If you or a member of your family are suffering from the symptoms of food poisoning, it is recommended that you follow the advice below to try and prevent the spread of the illness:

  • Wash your hands after contact with the sick person, and before handling food
  • Do not use the same towel or face cloth as the person who is ill
  • Clear up 'soiling' accidents straightaway, wash with hot soapy water and disinfect with a disinfectant or bleach
  • Disinfect door and toilet handles, taps and the toilet seat after use and disinfect the toilet bowl frequently
  • Drink plenty of fluids while you are ill to prevent dehydration

If you work as a food handler, handling high-risk foods, or work with elderly, young children or ill people you must advise your employer. You should not return to work if you have been suffering diarrhoea and/or vomiting until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours.

Click here for further advice on food handlers and fitness to work. Where necessary the Food and Safety Team can exclude people from work to prevent the spread of infection.

How we investigate food poisoning

Doctors who suspect a patient may have food poisoning have a duty to report the matter to the local Public Health England Team. Patients may be contacted by them and in some cases sent a questionnaire in an attempt to discover where the illness may have come from and to try to prevent the spread of the illness wherever it is necessary.

Members of the public who feel they have been made ill by eating from a restaurant, takeaway or other food business in the Dartford Borough can contact the Food Safety Team for help and advice.

Suspected cases of food poisoning are assessed to determine the appropriate course of action and where necessary food businesses which are implicated are visited. However we are unable to carry out a formal investigation if you have not seen your GP and submitted a faecal specimen for analysis.

For further advice Online: Contact the E.H Support Team or call 01322 343434

Further information

Campylobacter PDF, 114.56 KB
Ecoil O157/Escherichia coil (VTEC)
Salmonella infection from reptiles
Staphylococcus aureus

Last Updated: 07th March 2019 Print Link