For the public

Important information about food poisoning

It may not be due to your last meal

Very often, when people are suffering from food poisoning, they feel sure that the last meal they ate made them ill, especially if this happens to be a meal at a restaurant or takeaway. However, food poisoning bacteria take quite a long time before making you ill: on average between 12-24 hours.

It is more likely that the cause of the illness is something eaten the previous day or even 2 to 3 days earlier, some can take up to 7 days before you become ill.

Another very fast acting type of food-borne illness could be caused by an allergic reaction. This can vary from unpleasant tingling in the mouth and rashes etc. Consult your doctor if you have symptoms or concerns.

What will we investigate?

We will carry out a formal investigation when:

  • We have received the results of the stool samples and the results show that the illness was caused by a food poisoning organism
  • Where there are a lot of people from more than one family who are ill
  • Where the person suffering works in a food business and handles food

What should I do if I have food poisoning?

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 have also been symptom-free for 48 hours. For medical advice you must contact your doctor. The germs causing your illnesses are easily passed from person to person when you go to the toilet. Even when using toilet paper you can pass them on e.g. when you touch the toilet seat, the flush handle, taps, food utensils and food itself. Others touching these items could then pick up the bug and could become ill. Good personal hygiene will help prevent the spread of the food poisoning bacteria. Always wash you hands after going to the toilet, whether toilet paper is used or not. Always wash hands before handling food, handling food utensils (cutlery or crockery) and feeding young children.

Passing it on

The germs causing your illnesses are easily passed from person to person when you go to the toilet. Even when using toilet paper you can pass them on e.g. when you touch the toilet seat, the flush handle, taps, food utensils and food itself. Others touching these items could then pick up the bug and could become ill.

The risk of passing it on to other people is greater when people are handling food, involved in health care, are in nurseries, schools and playgroups and in hospitals, due to the close person to person contact and because they are sharing facilities.

Good personal hygiene will help prevent the spread of the food poisoning bacteria

Hand washing

Always wash you hands after going to the toilet, whether toilet paper is used or not. Always wash hands before handling food, handling food utensils (cutlery or crockery) and feeding young children.

Children should be supervised when going to the toilet and when washing their hands.

Food preparation

Do not prepare food if you are suffering from food poisoning. You must be symptom free for 48 hours before handling food.

Nurseries, playgroups etc.

Individual disposable paper towels are the best. Communal linen and terry towels should not be used. Mechanical air-drying facilities may be used.

Disinfection

A suitable disinfectant can be made up by adding one teaspoon of household bleach to 1 litre of water.

The following equipment should be disinfected regularly: Toilet seats, flush handles, toilet door handles (inside and out), wash hand basin taps.

Further advice and information

If you want more detailed information on a specific illness please visit the GOV.UK website