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Food poisoning

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Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating food contaminated with harmful bacteria (such as salmonella) or viruses (such as norovirus).

Symptoms of food poisoning

The following symptoms usually begin one to three days after eating contaminated food:

  • Feeling sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting (sickness)
  • Stomach cramps

For more information about symptoms see NHS Choices - Food poisoning.

What to do if you have food poisoning

1. Go to your doctor and ask for medical advice (you can also contact NHS Choices or telephone 111)

2. Report the incident to your employer if you work with food or vulnerable people

3. Report it to us by completing our report food poisoning form.

What next?

You should stay off work until you have been symptom free for at least 48 hours.

This is particularly important for the following groups who are at higher risk of spreading infection:

  • food handlers involved with unwrapped or ready to eat food
  • staff of health care facilities in contact with food or patients
  • children aged below 5 years attending nurseries, playgroups etc
  • older children and adults who may find it difficult to carry out good personal
  • hygiene

To prevent the infection spreading please read  food poisoning preventing the spread (PDF) [77KB] .

Please note: Certain more dangerous infections, like E. coli O157, may have special exclusion requirements. When you are contacted to try to establish the cause of your food poisoning illness the Investigating Officer will discuss this with you.

How do we investigate cases?

Most cases are reported to us by your GP.

Please note: If your doctor has not sent us a sample of your faeces to confirm that you are suffering from food poisoning, we can only log the details and monitor the situation, unless there are two or more cases with a common link.

We will contact you either in person, on the telephone or via a questionnaire to establish:

  1. Where and what you have eaten over the 3 days before feeling ill
  2. Details of your symptoms

If we can relate your illness with another case in the area and there is a linked food business, we will carry out an investigation. However, with only one case it is hard to prove any particular premises to be at fault. Also, a significant number of food poisonings are thought to occur in the home.

Food poisoning outbreaks

A food poisoning outbreak means that two or more people linked people, who have had a common exposure to food (for example, they ate at the same restaurant or café) and experience a similar illness.

The evidence we collect during investigations gives us a much better chance of identifying the source of the infection. In these cases we can take steps to limit the outbreak and then consider what action might be appropriate.

Institutional outbreaks

With institutional outbreaks, we try to work to limit the spread of infection.

In schools and nurseries this means making sure no children attend who are still suffering from symptoms. We also try to make sure nursing and care homes have appropriate isolation practices in place to reduce the chance of infection spreading.

Institutions should have their own outbreak control plan to use in the case of infection. In these sorts of premises two or more cases of illness qualifies as an outbreak, although the team will be happy to discuss any questions you may have.

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