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Health protection

Suspect cases of food poisoning are routinely investigated by the food health and safety team to try to prevent the spread of the illness within the home and the community and to try to establish the source of the infection.

Man preparing food

Doctors who suspect a patient may have food poisoning have a duty to report the matter to Public Health England (PHE). PHE in turn notifies Local Authorities about cases of infectious diseases in their respective areas.

What can you expect us to do regarding food poisoning allegations?

If a food is suspected in causing an illness, we will try to establish the cause of it and any connection with a food business in the area.

We will ask the affected person to complete a food poisoning questionnaire with information about the food consumed prior to illness and any activities which carry a risk of contracting the infection.

If we consider that a food business may be implicated, we will visit the establishment to investigate the potential source of illness and put in place public protection measures as necessary.

We will look into the issues of food hygiene practices; the safety of foods found on premises; systems in place to manage food safety and relevant records. We may collect environmental and food samples for analysis.

Other matters taken into account before we decide to investigate are: whether there is a positive lab result confirming the infection; the number of people affected; the severity of the illness; and the time elapsed between the start of the illness and receipt of the report.

Members of the public who feel they have been made ill by eating food can also contact the Food Health and Safety team for help and advice.

What should I do if I suspect I have food poisoning?

If you suspect you are suffering from an infectious disease, including food poisoning, it is recommended that you consult your GP as soon as possible, they may ask you to submit a sample for examination.

If a person with symptoms is a food handler or health care/nursery worker who has direct contact or contact through serving food, with highly susceptible patients or persons in whom an intestinal infection would have serious consequences, they should not return to work until they are symptom-free for 48 hours. They must also inform their employer of their 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.

Bacteria and symptoms

The incubation period (time taken from becoming infected to feeling unwell) varies with each type of organism and in some cases can be as long as two weeks or more. The main symptoms linked to food poisoning are diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, nausea, headache, dizziness.

If you suspect you are suffering from food poisoning, it is important to realise that the last meal you ate may not be the cause of your symptoms.

Not all cases of infectious disease are due to contaminated food, many are caused by viruses that often have the same symptoms of food poisoning and spread very quickly from one person to another. These types of infection are especially common in babies and young children who pick them up from other children at nurseries, playgroups and school. Other sources of infection include farm animals and household pets

Who is at risk?

We all are, but babies, young children and the elderly can very quickly become very ill when infected. Pregnant women, people who already have a pre-existing illness, and anyone whose immune system is weakened can also be seriously affected by food borne illness.

How do I prevent food poisoning

Whilst different types of germs and foodstuffs are associated with different types of illness, by following some simple rules you can help yourself and your families to stay safe.

  • Always store raw meat and poultry in a covered container at the bottom of the fridge so that it cannot drip onto other foods.
  • Ensure that your fridge is clean and operating between 0 and 4 degrees centigrade
  • Always defrost meat, fish and poultry thoroughly before cooking.
  • Cook food thoroughly and if reheating, ensure it is piping hot before eaten.
  • If hot food is not to be eaten immediately, cool it quickly (within 90 minutes and refrigerate).
  • Ensure that work surfaces, cloths, utensils and chopping boards are cleaned thoroughly (between use) especially after being used for raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Keep any cuts/wounds covered with a waterproof dressing when preparing food.
  • Always wash salad before eating it to remove dirt.
  • Keep dogs, cats, etc out of the kitchen when preparing food and always wash their bowls separately to yours.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and hot water before preparing food or handling a baby, after going to the toilet, after playing with pets, after changing nappies, caring for people suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting, handling soiled bedding, etc.
  • Never drink untreated water from lakes or streams as it may be polluted.

For more information visit the Public Health England.

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 29 Aug 2017 at 15:21