What causes food poisoning?
Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. It's not usually serious and most people get better within a few days without treatment.
nidirect (link opens in new window) has information on signs and symptoms, what to do, and how to treat and prevent food poisoning.
What we do
Food poisoning is infectious. If you think you've got food poisoning or a food-related illness you should contact us for advice.
As well as investigating notifications of infectious diseases (particularly food poisoning) from the general public, we'll also investigate notifications from GPs, businesses and other local authorities.
Once we receive a food poisoning notification, we'll contact the person with the symptoms and ask them the following questions:
- what and where they've eaten before their illness
- details of the symptom
- whether they've been on holiday abroad
- whether or not their GP has taken a faecal sample, and
- whether anybody else they ate with also experienced any symptoms
- we may request that person provides a faecal sample to their GP
The purpose of this investigation is to try to prevent the spread of illness within the community and try to establish possible causes.
If a person with symptoms is a food handler or health care or nursery worker who has direct contact or contact through serving food, with highly susceptible people, they can't 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've also been symptom-free for 48 hours.
Many different sorts of bacteria (germs) can cause food borne illness. When food is kept warm, these bacteria can grow rapidly and reach dangerous levels within hours. Good food hygiene standards in industry and the home are vital to prevent food borne illness.
The incubation period (time taken from eating the food to feeling unwell) varies with each type of organism and in some cases can be up to 10-15 days after consumption of the food. It's important to realise that the last meal you ate may not be the cause of your symptoms.
For more information on food-related illnesses, visit the Health Protection Agency's website (link opens in new window).