Control of Infectious Diseases and Food Poisoning
When people suffer sickness and diarrhoea they often suspect that they are suffering from food poisoning. In fact these symptoms can also result from viral infections, which may present in the air, or some other cause, which may not be food related. Please contact us to report such illnesses or make a complaint about a food premises that you think might be linked to your illness. You should always contact your Doctor for medical advice if you feel you need this. General Practitioners (GPs) are required to notify Public Health England (PHE) of a number of infectious diseases. These include a range of diseases carried in food such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. Coli. We work with PHE to establish where the patient may have caught the infection, and to ensure that they do not in turn pass on the infection to others.
It is important to inform your Doctor or Environmental Health Officer if you:
- Are a food handler whose work is connected with the preparation or handling of food and drink.
- Are a health care or nursery member of staff or other staff who has direct contact or contact through serving food, with highly susceptible patients or person to whom food poisoning would have particularly serious consequences.
Often people suffering from suspected food poisoning feel sure that the cause is the last meal that they have eaten, especially if this happens to be a meal at a restaurant or takeaway. Often though, food poisoning bacteria take quite a long time before they make us ill, on average 1-2 days after we have eaten them. Sometimes it can take up to 11 days before you show any sign of illness.
The symptoms of food poisoning can vary, but generally include some or all of the following:
- Vomiting (sickness)
- Stomach pains
Reporting food poisoning
Reports of food poisoning reach us in different ways. Sometimes people have seen their GP who then reports this illness to us. Doctors are required by law to report either confirmed or suspected food poisoning to us.
Affected persons may also notify us direct, without first having seen their Doctor. We will respond to all cases by telephoning the affected person and asking for details about your illness, including the dates and times, symptoms, what you have eaten, your job and people in your household. This information can be vital in preventing further spread of the infection. You may also be asked to provide a stool specimen if you have not already done so.
If there is evidence that your illness is related to a specific restaurant or takeaway within the district, we will want to discuss the matter in detail with you. In most cases it is difficult to connect an event of illness to a particular business. If a whole group of people, at a party or wedding reception for example, are all affected by the same symptoms at the same time then it is easier to link illness with the food they have eaten.
Types of food borne illness
There are many types of food borne illness caused by different bacteria. The most common include:
Symptoms include stomach cramps and severe diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting and fever. They can begin 2-10 days after eating contaminated food but usually within 2-5 days. The main sources are undercooked chicken and other meats, pets, unpasteurised milk and contaminated water and cross-contamination to other foods. This organism is the most common cause of acute diarrhoea in adults.
Symptoms include stomach pain, fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. It usually takes about 12-48 hours for the illness to develop. Symptoms can be much more severe in the young and elderly. Main sources are undercooked chicken and other meats, unpasteurised milk and raw or undercooked eggs. This organism is the second most common form of food poisoning.
E. Coli 0157
Symptoms include bloody diarrhoea and the infection can lead to serious kidney damage in children. It usually takes 3-4 days for illness to develop. The main sources are undercooked beef burgers and minced beef, contaminated cooked meats and unpasteurised milk. This organism has been linked to farms and farm animals.
Food Safety Team
Tel: (01444) 477433