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Food poisoning advice

Environmental Health Officers investigate:

  • reports made by doctors of suspected food poisoning;
  • allegations made by customers and
  • requests for advice by food businesses where allegations have been made.

to discover where you may have contracted the illness.

It is important to realise that other types of illness can be confused with food poisoning and the onset times of some food poisoning can be over ten days after consumption of the contaminated or unsafe food.

To help us investigate we will want to know:

  • Have you been to your GP or hospital and did you provide a faecal and/or vomit sample?;
  • Your occupation and that other members of the household. If so where do you or they work?;
  • Is anybody else at home ill?;
  • Have you been on holiday recently - where, when?;
  • Have you any pets at home?;
  • Any recent meals out? Weddings? Christenings? take aways? dinner parties etc.
  • Have you had or been to a barbecue recently?
  • Do you have any idea of where you may have contracted it if it is a confirmed food poisoning. Please note that your onset times and symptoms assist us in narrowing potential sources of infection.
  • Have you still got any of the suspect food, a receipt for its purchase and how have you stored it.

We will also need to establish whether persons with the illness, or members of their families, are employed in high-risk occupations, such as working with food, the elderly or the very young. These occupations are considered high risk as they offer a potential route for the spread of the illness. where an investigating officer considers it necessary for an infected person to avoid high-risk work, they will advise them accordingly.

If you are ill you must:

Observe strict personal hygiene to avoid infecting others and reinfecting yourself. In particular you should remember the following rules:

  • If you have more than one WC, use a separate WC to those not infected.
  • Wash your hands immediately and thoroughly after using the toilet, with hot water and preferably a bactericidal soap. A separate hand towel should be used for hand drying by the infected person. where the patient is a young child, a parent may need to supervise or help with proper cleaning.
  • Regularly wipe the WC seat, handle and other door handles with a disinfectant.
  • where possible, avoid preparing food for others. If this is unavoidable, thoroughly wash your hands before preparing or cooking food, or before handling any eating utensils or kitchen equipment.

Young children

Young children tend to be less strict in their personal hygiene and accordingly, may be more likely to pass on the infection. Babies and toddlers in nappies will need special attention. where possible, disposable nappies should be used. You should take great care to ensure they are disposed of carefully. Thoroughly wash hands when nappy changing is complete.

If towelling nappies are used, you should rinse them in the normal way and then boil wash.

You should carry nappy changing out in a separate room, and not in areas where food is prepared.

Rubber gloves should be worn as an added precaution when washing/handling soiled nappies, clothing or bed linen.

Food handlers

Food handlers suspected of suffering from a form of food poisoning, including diarrhoea and/or vomiting must inform the owner of the business or their line manager immediately. You should not continue working with open food while suffering from this disease/condition.

We recommend that any food handler who suspects they are suffering from food poisoning seeks advice and confirmation from a medical practitioner.

Food handlers should only consider returning to work when:

  • No vomiting has occurred for forty-eight hours (48) once any treatment has ceased.
  • Bowel habits have returned to normal for forty-eight hours (48), either spontaneously, or following cessation of treatment with anti-diarrhoeal drugs.
  • Ideally when they have had clearance from their medical practitioner.

Food handlers who have been ill must inform their manager of their intention to return to work. It will then be the owner or line manager's decision whether this is acceptable for food safety.

Swimming pool and spa pools

Guidance issued by the Health Protection Agency indicates that bathers should not use swimming or spa pools if they have had diarrhoea within the last 14 days.