Food poisoning and illness

When people suffer sickness and diarrhoea they often think they are suffering from food poisoning. However, these symptoms can also be from viruses, which may not be food related.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

Symptoms will vary depending on which type of food poisoning you have, but will usually include some or all of the following:

  • Nausea (feeling sick) and/or vomiting (being sick)
  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Aching muscles

Sometimes when people are suffering from food poisoning, they feel that the last meal they ate made them ill, especially if this happens to be a meal at a restaurant or takeaway. However, food poisoning bacteria take quite a long time before making you ill, on average between 12-24 hours. It is more likely that the cause of the illness is something eaten the previous day or even 2-3 days earlier, sometimes it can take up to 7 days before you become ill. The only way to find out whether you have food poisoning is to provide a stool (faecal) sample for testing. This can be arranged by your doctor. If you have medical concerns, you should seek advice from your doctor.

Another very fast acting type of food related illness could be caused by an allergic reaction. This can vary from unpleasant tingling in the mouth to rashes on the skin. Consult your doctor if you have symptoms or concerns.

Reporting food poisoning

There is a legal requirement for Public Health England to notify the Local Authority of all confirmed cases of food poisoning. To report such illnesses or make a complaint about a food premises that you think might be linked to your illness, email us at foodhealthandsafety@swindon.gov.uk

What will we investigate?

We will carry out a formal investigation when:

  • we have received the results of the stool samples and the results show that the illness was caused by a food poisoning organism
  • where there are a lot of people from more than one family who are ill
  • where the person suffering works in a food business and handles food

In most cases it is very difficult to connect your illness to a particular business as the food you have eaten may have been used or thrown away by the time you become ill.

What should you do if you have food poisoning?

If you are ill and your job involves handling food or you are working in health care or are a nursery worker, you must contact us and not return to work until you are symptom-free for 48 hours. In some cases you may be excluded from work, school or we may ask children attending nurseries and childminders to stop going. We will let you know if this is necessary.

You must inform your employer of your symptoms.

Parents or guardians of children aged under five years or children or adults unable to implement good standards of personal hygiene, are advised to keep them away from school or other establishments until they have also been symptom-free for 48 hours.

If you are suffering from food poisoning you must try to avoid spreading the problem to others.

For medical advice you must contact your doctor.

Passing it on

The germs that can cause food poisoning are easily passed from person to person when you go to the toilet. Even when using toilet paper you can pass them on when you touch the toilet seat, the flush handle, taps, food utensils and food itself. Others touching these items could then pick up the bug and could become ill.

The risk of passing it to other people is greater when people are handling food, involved in health care, are in nurseries, schools and playgroups and in hospitals, due to the close person to person contact and because they are sharing facilities. Good personal hygiene will help prevent the spread of the food poisoning bacteria.

Hand washing

Always wash your hands after going to the toilet, whether toilet paper is used or not. Always wash hands before handling food, handling food utensils (cutlery or crockery) and feeding young children. Children should be supervised when going to the toilet and when washing their hands.

Food preparation

Do not prepare food if you are suffering from food poisoning. You must be symptom free for 48 hours before handling food.

Hand drying

Individual disposable paper towels are the best. Communal linen and terry towels should not be used. Mechanical air-drying facilities may also be used.

Disinfection

The following equipment should be disinfected regularly using an appropriate solution:

  • Toilet seats
  • Flush handles
  • Toilet door handles (inside and out)
  • Wash hand basin taps

Further advice and information

If you require more detailed information on a specific illness, visit the Gov.uk website.

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