Food Poisoning Investigation

Certain infectious diseases are notifiable to the Health Authority and these are investigated by the Public Health England Health Protection Unit or by Environmental Health Officers. We investigate food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses which are notifiable.

The purpose of infectious disease investigation is to try to prevent the spread of illness within the community and to try and establish possible causes. Advice is also given to the patient on how to prevent the spread of disease within the home.

Many different sorts of bacteria (germs) can cause food borne illness. When food is kept warm, these bacteria can grow rapidly and reach dangerous levels within hours. The numbers of cases of food borne illness have increased dramatically over the past few years, particularly during the Summer months. Good food hygiene standards in industry and the home are vital to prevent food borne illness.

The incubation period (time taken from eating the food to feeling unwell) varies with each type of organism and in some cases can be up to 10-15 days after consumption of the food. It is important to realise therefore, that the last meal you ate may not be the cause of your symptoms.

The main causes of food poisoning and food borne illness are:

  • Preparing foods too far in advance
  • Not cooking foods properly
  • Not defrosting foods correctly
  • Storing foods incorrectly (i.e. too warm) so that bacteria can grow quickly
  • Cross contamination of foods after cooking
  • Infection from people handling foods due to poor hygiene

Who is at Risk?

We all are, but babies, young children and the elderly can very quickly become very ill when infected. Pregnant women, people who already have a pre-existing illness, and anyone whose immune system is weakened can also be seriously affected by food borne illness.

What are the Main Symptoms of Food-Borne Illness / Food Poisoning?

  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

More information on infectious diseases, including food poisoning and foodborne illnesses, can be found on the Public Health England website.

There is also further information on other infectious diseases on our public health web pages.