Report food poisoning
If you think you have food poisoning caused by food from a food business in the borough, please report it to us.
Alternatively, you can report food poisoning by telephoning our Customer Service Centre on 01256 844844 or by writing to:
Environmental Health Team
It is important to inform your doctor or an Environmental Health Officer if you:
- are a food handler whose work is connected with the preparation or handling of food and drink
- are a healthcare or nursery worker or any other person who has direct contact, or contact through serving food, to any person for whom food poisoning would have particularly serious consequences, i.e. under 5’s, over 65’s or anyone who is immune suppressed or pregnant
Doctors are required by law to report either confirmed or suspected food poisoning.
Different bacteria and viruses have different incubation periods, which is the time taken for symptoms to appear following consumption of contaminated food or water. For example, a common food poisoning bacteria called Campylobacter has an incubation period of up to 12 days, whereas Salmonella has an incubation period of 6-72 hours. Viruses that cause gastroenteritis, such as norovirus, typically have much shorter incubation periods of only a few hours. They are highly contagious and can be passed easily from person to person, like the flu virus, and will live for some time on surfaces such as tables, door handles and toilet flushes. Although these viruses cause similar symptoms to food poisoning they are not always foodborne. Bacterial infections tend to have symptoms that are quite long lasting (perhaps a week) whereas viral infections tend to have very violent symptoms but are of a relatively short duration and you start to feel better quite quickly. It can be very useful to record your full food history for the 5 days prior to you becoming ill as it may not always be the last thing you ate that made you poorly and a food history can highlight other foods that could be of concern.
The symptoms of food poisoning can vary but generally include some or all of the following:
- vomiting (sickness)
- stomach pains
What happens next?
We will respond to all cases by telephoning the affected person and asking for a lot of details about their illness, including the dates and times of symptoms, what they have eaten, their job and details of people in the 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 the illness is related to a specific restaurant or takeaway in the area, we will want to discuss the matter in detail with you. In most cases it is very 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 it is easier to link illnesses with the food they have eaten.
If you require information on a specific food related illness please refer to the NHS website.
What are the main causes of food poisoning?
- 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 foods are those that have been previously cooked, allowed to cool and then reheated before they are eaten. Some bacteria can survive the cooking process and will grow if the food isn't cooled quickly. If food is to be reheated you should ensure it is piping/steaming hot throughout, stirring thoroughly to make sure there are no cold spots. You should only reheat food that has been cooled as quickly as possible and then refrigerated.
- Cross contamination from raw food to ready to eat food
Food poisoning bacteria is naturally present in many raw foods, especially raw meat, poultry and unwashed root vegetables. If these bacteria are able to contaminate food that is ready to eat, i.e. cooked food or food that will not be cooked before eating, then you could develop food poisoning. Cross contamination can occur from poor storage, ie raw food stored above or next to ready to eat food, or in other ways such as use of the same chopping boards, work surfaces, dirty cloths or dirty hands. It is essential that equipment and hands are washed thoroughly after handling raw foods and that that vegetables and salads are washed before eating raw.
- Failure to keep hot food above 63ºC
If food is going to kept hot for more than 2 hours before eating then it must be kept above 63oC so that harmful bacteria cannot begin to grow.
- Poor personal hygiene and infected food handlers
Poor personal hygiene can result in food becoming contaminated. Anyone suffering from foodborne illness or with infected cuts or sores on their hands can contaminate the food they handle. Any open wounds on hands/fingers should be completely covered with a waterproof brightly coloured plaster. Any person suffering from diarrhoea and/or vomiting should avoid preparing food until they have been clear of symptoms for at least 48 hours as they can easily pass on their illness. Please remember that anyone who has been in contact with someone suffering from food poisoning could pass on the illness, even if they show no symptoms themselves.
Environmental Health team
If you have an enquiry about environmental health, send a message to the Environmental Health team