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Food poisoning

We investigate cases of suspected food poisoning where we have sufficient information.

When someone becomes ill with sickness and/or diarrhoea it may be symptoms of food borne illness, a viral infection (food borne or otherwise) or some other cause.

The most effective way of finding out whether it is food poisoning is for the patient to provide a faecal sample for testing. Whilst this is a very unpleasant it is essential in identifying whether a food poisoning bug is to blame.

If a group of people have eaten together and subsequently show signs of food poisoning please contact us.

Causes of food poisoning

Often people have signs of food poisoning they suspect it was their last meal and will be sure that this is the cause, this is not always the case.

Food poisoning bacteria take quite a long time to reproduce inside the human gut and some people are more resistant than others so it may be some time before there are enough to cause illness. Very often it can be something eaten one, two or up to ten days before symptoms start.

Some food poisoning symptoms can appear more quickly. This is usually caused by poison or toxin which some bacteria make. If there is a lot of this in the food when eaten the stomach is likely to react quite quickly by vomiting to try to remove the poison. This can happen within a few hours of eating the affected food.

Certain food may cause allergic reactions with similar symptoms to food poisoning. You can suddenly develop allergies to food you have always eaten.

For further information about food poisoning see the NHS website: NHS - food poisoning advice.

What to do if you suspect you have food poisoning

  • Visit your GP and request a faecal sample be taken
  • Submit the sample according to your GP's instruction
  • Avoid passing the infection by washing your hands thoroughly after using the toilet
  • If you think your food poisoning was caused from a food business in Runnymede please contact us.

What happens next?

  • The laboratory will automatically notify the Environmental Health Department if there is a positive result
  • The Environmental Health Department may contact you to try to identify how you became infected and to ensure it cannot be passed on
  • If you are a food handler, work with children under five or the elderly, you should abstain from work until 48 hours after your symptoms cease (occasionally extended exclusion may be required, we will give you instructions where this is necessary)
  • Children under five should be kept away from nurseries until 48 hours after their symptoms cease (again further periods of exclusion are sometimes required, parents/carers will be given instructions)
  • Occasionally additional samples may be necessary to confirm that the infection has cleared.
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