Food Poisoning

Food poisoning occurs where certain harmful germs are introduced into the body via food. These germs may themselves be poisonous and, if in sufficient numbers will cause a short sharp illness a few hours after eating contaminated food. Vomiting is the most common symptom in this case.

Some germs do not produce their poisons until they are in the body, and, due to the time taken for the poison to be produced, symptoms may not occur for several days after the food is eaten. Diarrhoea is a more typical symptom of this type of food poisoning.

The time taken from eating food to feeling unwell varies from hours and, in some cases up to 10 - 15 days after consumption.

The last meal you ate may not be the cause of your symptoms. You cannot see, smell or taste the bacteria that causes food poisoning.

You are not suffering from food poisoning until you have provided a faecal sample which has been examined in a laboratory and proved to contain food poisoning bacteria. Please contact your GP to arrange for a test.

"48 hour" bugs are very common and also cause vomiting and occasionally diarrhoea. These are usually caused by viruses in the environment and not food. These viruses are highly infectious and are sometimes called "Winter Vomiting Disease", although they can occur at any time of year. The most prominent symptom is projectile vomiting although nausea, diarrhoea, headache, fever and muscle aches also occur.

Transmission is usually from person to person and cases should remain absent from work until 48 hours after symptoms cease.

Causes of food poisoning

The main causes of food poisoning are:

  • Preparing food too far in advance
  • Not cooking food properly
  • Not defrosting food correctly
  • Storing food incorrectly so that bacteria can grow
  • Cross contamination of foods after cooking
  • Infection from food handlers due to poor hygiene

If you believe that you have food poisoning:

  • Visit your doctor and request a stool sample to be examined
  • Ensure you practice good personal hygiene
  • Wash your hands frequently especially after visiting the toilet and before handling food
  • Drink plenty of fluids

If you believe your illness has been caused by a food premises in Aberdeenshire please contact the Environmental Health Service in order that officers can visit, inspect and investigate the business concerned. The officer will want to carry out a telephone interview with you to identify your food history for the two weeks prior to onset of symptoms.

People in occupations such as nurses, cooks, food handlers and people who work with the young or elderly must not go to work if they have or suspect they have food poisoning as there is a possibility that they may spread the infection.

The control and investigation of food poisoning cases is carried out by the Environmental Health Service in partnership with NHS Grampian Health Protection Team headed by the Consultant in Public Health Medicine.

Investigation procedures may include:

  • Interview with cases and contacts
  • Procurement of water samples (in particular with private supplies)
  • The issue of Boil Water Notices
  • Procurement of environmental samples
  • Arrangement for the procurement of faecal samples
  • Inspection of suspected premises
  • Sampling of suspected food
  • Advice and guidance to cases and/or contacts
  • Formal exclusion from work