Food poisoning

Symptoms of food poisoning, possible causes and what to do if you suspect you have food poisoning.

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating or drinking food that has been contaminated by bacteria or viruses.

Symptoms of food poisoning

The usual symptoms are diarrhoea and/or sickness, stomach-ache and sometimes a headache, tiredness, and a high temperature. 

Food poisoning bacteria take a long time to reproduce inside the human gut, so it may be some time before there are enough bacteria to cause illness. 

Do not assume that food poisoning is a result of the last meal you ate - it can take two, or even three or more meals before symptoms show.

Symptoms usually last a few days but if they continue or get worse, then seek medical help.

Food poisoning can spread very easily - please wash your hands thoroughly to avoid spreading any infection.

Anyone who has eaten contaminated food can suffer from food poisoning. However, the very young, elderly, pregnant women, and people that are unwell are particularly vulnerable.

Anyone who works with food or works with at-risk people should stay away from work until free of all symptoms for at least 48 hours to prevent spread of infection.

Foods associated with food poisoning

You can get food poisoning from a variety of foods. However, certain types of food can support bacteria more easily than others - these include:

  • undercooked meat products (both red meat and poultry)
  • dairy products (especially unpasteurised) such as milk, cream and soft cheese
  • anything that could contain uncooked egg, such as eggs, mayonnaise, or chocolate mousse 
  • shellfish, such as oysters

Common causes of food poisoning

There are five main causes of food poisoning:

  • bacteria and their toxins
  • viruses
  • chemicals and metals
  • poisonous plants
  • allergic reactions

Common types of food poisoning

There are several types of bacteria which can cause food poisoning. The most common are:

  • campylobacter
  • salmonella
  • e. coli 0157
  • staphylococcus aureus

The main issues which have resulted in food poisoning outbreaks are:

  • food prepared too far in advance and stored at room temperature (in the danger zone between 20-60) for too long
  • cooling food too slowly
  • not re-heating food to high enough temperature
  • under-cooking food
  • not thawing frozen meat for sufficient time
  • cross-contamination from raw foods to ready-to-eat foods
  • infected food handlers
  • eating raw foods such as oysters

What to do if you believe you have food poisoning from eating at a food establishment in Surrey Heath

Please contact us and let us know where you ate, what date and time, what food you ate, what symptoms you have and what time did the symptoms start. It is also very helpful to tell us if anybody else you ate with had similar symptoms.

It is also recommended that you submit a stool (faeces/poo) sample to your doctor, as this is the only way to confirm if you have food poisoning. It is almost impossible to prove a case of food poisoning without the result of a stool sample.

If the sample is positive for any food poisoning bacteria, the results will be sent through to your Environmental Health team and your doctor. The Environmental Health team may contact you to find out more information.


Contact Environmental Health