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Food poisoning

 

Sickness and diarrhoea are never pleasant and we often associate the symptoms with the last food items we ate. However, these symptoms can also result from viral infections, which may be airborne, or some other cause, and may not in fact be food related. Food poisoning is commonly caused by bacterial contamination of foods by organisms such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter and others. These bacterial infections usually take several days for symptoms to show.

The only way of finding out whether you have food poisoning is to visit your GP and provide a stool (faecal) sample for testing. If you do have food poisoning the results will be notified to us and we will contact you to collect further information. If symptoms persist, you should seek advice from your GP. We are not able to investigate single cases of alleged food poisoning.

Note: It is important to inform your Doctor or Environmental Health Officer (EHO) 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 worker or other staff who has direct contact or contact through food, with people to whom food poisoning would have particularly serious consequences.

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

  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting (sickness)
  • nausea
  • fever
  • headaches
  • stomach pains

What are the main causes of food poisoning?

  • Food poisoning bacteria grow rapidly in food prepared too far in advance and then kept at room temperature. Any food which has been prepared in advance must therefore be cooled as quickly as possible and refrigerated as soon as possible, to slow bacterial growth.
  • Undercooking of food may be dangerous as any harmful bacteria in the food will not be destroyed.
  • Reheated products are those that have been previously cooked, allowed to cool and then reheated before eating. It is vital that these products are thoroughly reheated in order to destroy any bacteria.
  • Cross contamination may be direct, for example poor storage when raw food comes into contact with cooked food, or indirect for example via a chopping board, knives, work surfaces, dirty dishcloths or the food handler’s hands. Food poisoning bacteria are naturally present in raw food, especially raw meat. If these bacteria are allowed to contaminate food that is going to be eaten without further cooking, food poisoning can result.
  • Failure to keep hot food above 63ºC as cooking destroys bacteria but if hot foods are held below 63ºC the bacteria may begin to grow again.
  • Poor personal hygiene can result in food becoming contaminated with bacteria. It is important to remember that anyone who has been in contact with someone suffering from food poisoning can pass on bacteria, even though they may show no symptoms themselves. Good personal hygiene is vital in preventing the spread of food poisoning bacteria. Always wash your hands before handling cooked food.

Further information can be found at:

Ten ways to prevent food poisoning

More on food poisoning 

Food hygiene ratings

Acting on campylobacter together

Contact us

Environmental Health
Gateshead Council
Civic Centre
Regent Street
Gateshead
NE8 1HH

Tel: 0191 433 3951
Fax: 0191 477 4827
E-mail: environmentalhealth@gateshead.gov.uk