Food Poisoning and Diarrhoea

What Causes It?

People suffer from diarrhoea (with or without vomiting) for a number of different reasons. The causes that we are concerned with on this page are from infections by microorganisms. Microorganisms include:

  • Bacteria (such as salmonella or campylobacter)
  • Parasites (such as cryptosporidium or giardia)
  • Viruses (such as Norwalk/Norovirus)

How Do These Germs Spread?

The bacteria, parasites and viruses that cause diarrhoea and vomiting may be spread by :-

  • A sufferer to other people through close contact
  • Infected food
  • Contaminated surfaces
  • The "environment", such as untreated water
  • Animals

General Advice

1. Personal Hygiene

Pay particular attention to your personal hygiene both during and after your illness. You can still be carrying the germ for several weeks after your symptoms have finished. You may inadvertently spread the disease to others, or could even reinfect yourself days or even weeks after your symptoms have stopped if you lapse in personal hygiene measures.

A. Hand washing
Wash and dry your hands regularly using soap (preferably a liquid soap) and your own towel. Use the wash hand basin and not the kitchen sink.

b. After using the toilet

i. Wash and dry hands using the wash hand basin, not the kitchen sink
ii. Keep a separate towel that is for your use only
iii. Wipe off the toilet seat, toilet handle, taps, etc., with a bathroom disinfectant
iv. If there is more than one toilet, keep one toilet for use only by the sick person
v. Soiled linen and underwear should NOT be washed or rinsed in the kitchen sink. If using a washing machine, use the hot cycle.

2. Preparation of Food
If you do not need to handle or prepare food, then you should avoid doing so until 48 hours after you have fully recovered. If you have to handle or prepare food, then it is essential that you wash and dry your hands using soap and a separate towel before doing so. 

3. Contact With Other People
Tell anyone that is nursing you or sharing your home that you are suffering with diarrhoea and show them these guidelines.

You should avoid contact with other people until at least 24 hours after you are fully recovered. Affected children should not go to school or nursery, or play with others until at least 24 hours after full recovery, as they can easily spread the infection to others.

4. Those With Suspected or Confirmed Food Poisoning or Food Borne Diseases

Environmental Health staff will contact people suffering from suspected or confirmed food poisoning or food borne illnesses to:-

  • Give advice on how to prevent spreading the infection to others
  • Find out where the sufferer caught the illness
  • Provide information on how to provide a sample for analysis

If you have not been contacted by a member of the Environmental Health Department within 48 hours of your GP confirming the type of food poisoning or food borne illness you are suffering from, then please contact us on (01237) 428809.

Giving A Sample

If requested, please try to provide and deliver a stool sample as soon as possible. Samples are required to identify the illness correctly and to check whether it is still present in your body. It is possible to feel better after being ill but still have the germs in or on your body, which could then be passed onto others.

When asked to provide a sample, you will be given a plastic pot, usually with a blue lid, with a spatula inside. The pot usually also comes with an information leaflet.

  • The spatula should be used to scrape up some of the solid matter when you go to the toilet. This is best achieved by placing a few layers of toilet paper on the water in the toilet. If the sufferer is a child, place a potty inside the toilet, and disinfect it carefully after use.
  • A small amount of faeces will be enough. Please do not fill the pot, as this could present an infection risk to the laboratory staff.
  • The spatula and solid matter should be put into the pot and the lid screwed down firmly.  
  • Write your name on the lable on the side of the pot.
  • Place the pot into the supplied clear plastic bag. Place this bag inside the black plastic doggy bag and tie the handles.

Please do not supply any vomit, urine or water in the sample pot. Results will normally be available within five working days, so please be patient.

If your symptoms persist or you get worse, please see your Doctor. Further information can be given by the Food & Safety team.

Additional Information For People Who Work With Food, The Elderly Or The Young

1. Please contact the Food & Safety team immediately on 01237 428809. We will give you advice on preventing the spread of the infection to others.

2. If you work with food, the elderly or the young, then you should :-

  • Notify your employer immediately.
  • Stay away from work until you have not had any vomiting and or diarrhoea (and are completely back to normal) for at least 48 hours. If you return to work within this time, you may still be carrying the bug and could expose others to it.
  • If you have taken anti-diarrhoeal drugs, you should stay away from work for at least 48 hours after you have finished treatment and return to work only if your diarrhoea has not recurred.

3. Inform your employer before you return to work.

Prevention Of Food Poisoning And Food Borne Diseases

1. Always wash your hands before eating or preparing food.

2. Always wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet and after handling raw foods.

3. Always wash your hands after touching pets and animals, especially if they are ill.

4. Never let raw foods come in contact with cooked foods.  Always ensure that cooked foods are stored above raw foods in your fridge and that the raw foods are in sealed containers.

5. Work surfaces, utensils and kitchen equipment must be thoroughly washed and disinfected after being used for raw foods.  A range of kitchen surface cleaners that also kill germs are available from most supermarkets.

6. Ensure frozen meat, especially poultry, is thoroughly defrosted before it is  cooked, and then cook it thoroughly.

7. Never use raw eggs in products that are not themselves going to be cooked. Avoid eating eggs with runny yolks - this is especially important for the young and the elderly. Store eggs in the fridge and use the eggs by the date on the box. Do not use eggs that have passed their use by date. Dispose of them.

8. Once food has cooked, serve it immediately or chill rapidly (within one and half hours) and place within the refrigerator (which should be operating at less than 5ºC)

Further information is available by contacting the Food & Safety team, the Public Health Department , or your doctor.