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Food poisoning

When people suffer sickness and diarrhoea they often suspect they are suffering from food poisoning. Food poisoning bacteria take 1-2 days on average, after we have ingested them to show as an illness. Although, sometimes it can take up to 11 days. Symptoms can however also result from viral infections. These infections may be present in the air or some other cause and may not be food related.

When to contact a doctor or our Health Protection team

If you suspect you have food poisoning, it is important to inform your doctor or our Health Protection team if you are:

  • A food handler whose work is connected with the preparation or handling of food and drink.
  • A health care or nursery staff employee, or someone who has direct contact with food during preparation or indirect contact through the serving of food.  This is especially important if you work with highly susceptible patients or people where having food poisoning could lead to particularly serious consequences.

You can report a food safety problem regarding illnesses, or complaints about a food premise that you think might be linked to your illness.

Food poisoning symptoms

The symptoms of food poisoning can vary but generally include some or all the following:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting (sickness)
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pains

The main causes of food poisoning

What are the main causes of food poisoning and food borne illnesses?

Food prepared too far in advance and then kept at room temperature

Food poisoning bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature. Any food which has been prepared in advance must be refrigerated in order to slow bacterial growth.


This may be dangerous as any harmful bacteria in the food will not be destroyed.

Not reheating food to high enough temperatures

Reheated food is food which has been previously cooked, allowed to cool and then reheated before it is eaten. Some bacteria can survive the cooking process and will grow if the food isn't cooled quickly. Try not to reheat leftovers if possible.

Cross contamination between raw foods and ready to eat foods

Food poisoning bacteria may be naturally present in raw food, especially raw meat and poultry. Food poisoning can occur if bacteria get onto food that is not going to receive any further cooking before being eaten. Cross contamination can result from poor storage. Juices from raw meat may be allowed to drip on to cooked food. Contaminated chopping boards, work surfaces, dirty dishcloths or food handlers' hands can all cause cross contamination

Failure to keep hot food above 63 degrees

Holding food at a hot temperature ensures that harmful bacteria will not grow.

Poor personal hygiene and infected food handlers

Poor personal hygiene can result in food becoming contaminated with bacteria. Persons suffering from infections such as food poisoning and septic cuts can also contaminate the food. It is important to remember that anyone who has been in contact with someone suffering from food poisoning can pass on bacteria, even if they show no symptoms themselves.

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