Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is an illness which occurs after eating or drinking anything that is contaminated by germs, or sometimes chemicals.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms depend on the type of germ or chemical but diarrhoea, sickness, stomach pains and sometimes fever and headache are the most common. Illness may last for only a day or continue for one or two weeks.

How can I tell if food is contaminated?

You can't! Even food which looks and tastes alright can cause food poisoning.

How can I avoid it?

Raw food, especially meats and poultry contain germs which can cause food poisoning.

Stop these germs getting onto food by:

  • Storing raw and cooked food apart
  • Raw meat must always to be kept on the bottom shelf of the fridge
  • Use separate utensils and chopping boards for raw and cooked foods
  • Wash your hands with soap in warm running water after handling raw foods
  • Do not smoke or eat when handling food

Kill the germs before you eat food by:

  • Thawing frozen poultry and joints of meat completely before cooking. Meat should be thawed in the bottom of the refrigerator
  • Cooking food thoroughly. Poultry should always be cooked until the juices run clear
  • If you want to keep food for later, cool it quickly and put it in the fridge as soon as possible or keep it hot in the oven. If food is stored at the right temperature, germs cannot grow

Keep other germs off food:

  • Do not eat foods made with raw eggs, for example, homemade mayonnaise, some mousses and desserts
  • Do not drink unpasteurised milk (green top milk)
  • If your milk bottles are pecked by birds the milk should be thrown away
  • Keep pets and pet food away from food, work surfaces and utensils
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet, before and after preparing food, after handling pets and after emptying the waste bin
  • Avoid preparing food for other people if you have diarrhoea or sickness
  • Keep food covered

Having a party?

Follow this advice:

  • Do not prepare food too far in advance
  • If you are having a lot of guests, use commercial caterers who have the equipment to prepare and store large amounts of food safely

Is there anything I should do whilst I am ill?

  • Wash hands with soap in warm running water and dry thoroughly, especially when preparing food and after using the toilet
  • Avoid close contact with other people until the diarrhoea has stopped
  • Avoid preparing food for other people. Make sure everyone at home has their towel and flannel
  • Clean toilet seats, flush handles, door handles and taps frequently with hot soapy water and disinfectant solution
  • Soiled clothes and bedding should be washed on their own in the washing machine on the hottest cycle

Will I need to stay off work or school?

You must stay away from work or school until at least 48 hours after your first normal stool.

If your work involves handling food, nursing or working with the young, sick or elderly, you must tell your employer.

Last updated 29 October 2019
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