Food poisoning

What is it Food Poisoning? 

Food poisoning is an illness which occurs after eating or drinking anything that is contaminated by germs or sometimes chemicals. You can not tell if food is contaminated, even food which looks and tastes alright can cause food poisoning.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms depend on the type of germ or chemical, but diarrhoea, sickness, stomach pains and sometimes fever and headache are the most common. Illness may last for only a day or continue for one or two weeks.  

What can I do to avoid Food Poisoning?

Avoid raw foods, especially meats and poultry as they contain germs which can cause Food Poisoning.

Stop these germs getting into your body by:-

  • storing raw and cooked food apart, raw meat must always be kept on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator
  • use separate utensils and chopping boards for raw and cooked foods
  • wash your hands with soap in warm running water after handling raw foods
  • do not smoke or eat when handling food

Kill the germs before you eat food by:-

  • thawing frozen poultry and joints of meat completely before cooking. Meat should be thawed in the bottom of the refrigerator
  • cooking food thoroughly. Poultry should always be cooked until the juices run clear
  • if you want to keep food for later, cool it quickly and put it in the refrigerator as soon as possible or keep it hot in the oven. If food is stored at the right temperature, germs cannot grow

Keep other germs off food:-

  • Do not eat foods made with raw eggs, e.g. home made mayonnaise, some mousses and desserts.
  • Do not drink unpasteurised milk (green top milk).
  • If your milk bottles are pecked by birds, the milk should be thrown away.
  • Keep pets and pet food away from food, work surfaces and utensils.
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet, before and after preparing food, after handling pets and after emptying the waste bin.
  • Avoid preparing food for other people if you have diarrhoea or sickness.
  • Keep food covered.

If I am suffering from food poisoning, is there anything I should do whilst I am ill?

  • Report to us so we can investigate the cause of your illness and prevent it spreading further.
  • Wash hands with soap in warm running water and dry thoroughly, especially when preparing food and after using the toilet.
  • Avoid close contact with other people until the diarrhoea has stopped.
  • Avoid preparing food for other people.
  • Make sure everyone at home has their own towel and flannel.
  • Clean toilet seats, flush handles, door handles and taps frequently with hot soapy water and disinfectant solution.
  • Soiled clothes and bedding should be washed on their own in the washing machine on the hottest cycle.

Will I need to stay off work/school?

You must stay away from work or school until at least 48 hours after your first normal stool. If your work involves handling food, nursing or working with the young, sick or elderly, you must tell your employer.

More information on infectious diseases

If you want more information on specific infectious diseases please visit the Public Health England website.