What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
- Diarrhoea. If your diarrhoea contains blood, visit your GP immediately.
- Stomach cramps
- Aching muscles
It is important to remember that it can take some time for the symptoms of food poisoning to show. This varies with each type of food poisoning bacteria – some can make you feel ill within a day, while others can take up to 10-15 days after consumption of the contaminated food. It is important to realise then that the last meal you ate may not always be the cause of your symptoms.
What to do if you are suffering from food poisoning
- Consult your doctor immediately if the person affected is a baby, a young child, elderly, or if they have an existing illness or condition.
- You should also contact your doctor if symptoms are prolonged or severe (e.g. if you have bloody diarrhoea).
- Submit a stool sample to your GP, as this will allow them to identify what your illness actually is. If you wish to lodge a complaint against a food premises because you feel you may have contracted the illness from their food, a stool sample will be required to formally investigate the premises.
For further guidance please consult the NHS Choices website’s page on Food Poisoning.
How can you prevent the spread of food poisoning?
If you or a member of your family is 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 any handling of food.
- Do not use the same towel or face cloth as someone who is suffering with food borne illness.
- Clear up any soiling accidents immediately, washing up with hot soapy water and then disinfecting the area with a disinfectant or bleach.
- Disinfect door and toilet handles, taps and the toilet seat after use. Disinfect the toilet bowl frequently.
- Drink plenty of fluids while you are ill to prevent dehydration – if you have sickness or diarrhoea, you will need to replace any water lost.
- Children who have been off of school with sickness and diarrhoea should be excluded until they have been without symptoms for at least 48 hours.
Reducing food borne illness
- Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food, and always after handling raw meat, going to the toilet, blowing your nose or handling animals (including pets!).
- Keep food preparation surfaces and utensils clean and disinfected (e.g. by using an anti-bacterial spray for the product’s stated contact time).
- Store and prepare raw meat and 'ready-to-eat' food separately. Always keep raw and defrosting meat at the base of the refrigerator, below everything else – this prevents any fluid dripping onto other food.
- Ensure that your refrigerator and freezer are operating properly – it is recommended that you invest in a suitable thermometer, as the unit’s own display can be inaccurate. Fridges should operate at 5 degrees Celsius or lower, and the freezer at -18 degrees Celsius or lower.
- Check the 'Use by' dates on food and ensure that you use the food before that date expires.
- It is recommended to store eggs in the refrigerator, and that you do not eat any food containing uncooked eggs.
- Keep pets away from food intended for human consumption ,and any food preparation surfaces.
- Defrost food thoroughly before cooking, especially meat and poultry.
- Cook food thoroughly. Follow manufacturers' guidelines on the food’s packaging, and ensure that food is piping hot throughout before eating.
- Cool food immediately after cooking, and never allow it to be at room temperature for more than 4 hours. Always store left-over food in the refrigerator as soon as it has cooled to room temperature – you should try to cool it within 90 minutes of cooking.