Food poisoning

Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food. Bacteria, viruses or toxins which are naturally present in meat, fish or plants are usually the cause of food poisoning. Metals and chemicals in food can also be the cause.

The incubation period (time taken from eating the food to feeling unwell) varies with each type of bacteria and, in some cases, may occur  up to15 days later. This means that the last meal you ate before getting ill may not be the cause of your symptoms.


What are the symptoms?

People with food poisoning may have a range of symptoms but the most common are abdominal pains, diarrhoea and vomiting.

How is food poisoning diagnosed?

You will need to go to your doctor and give a faecal specimen.  This will be tested and then you will be given the results or diagnosis. 

If you have been diagnosed as having food poisoning by your doctor, they will tell us.

You will then either receive a questionnaire through the post or a visit from us, depending on what type of food poisoning you are suffering from.

A food history will be collected, usually covering the five days before your symptoms started.  It is a good idea to try to do this whenever you think you may be suffering from food poisoning, as it can be very hard to remember what you have previously eaten just a few days later.  I think I’ve got symptoms of food poisoning, what do I do?

Food poisoning or food borne illness can spread quickly: everyone in the family could have eaten the same food and  the bacteria may be passed on by close family contact. Viruses can also cause illness similar to food poisoning and they also spread very quickly.

If you suspect you have food poisoning it is recommended that you visit your doctor as soon as possible, who might ask you to provide a faecal sample for examination.

Samples are useful in that they might be able to show which food-borne illness you are suffering from, or could rule out a food-poising organism. Viruses can also be detected.

Consult your doctor immediately if the person affected:

  • Is a baby
  • Is elderly
  • has an existing illness or condition
  • has symptoms that are prolonged or severe, such as blood in your diarrhoea.

If you or a member of your family is suffering from the symptoms of food poisoning, follow this advice to try and prevent the spread of the illness ..

  • Wash your hands after contact with the sick person, and before handling food.
  • The sick person should avoid preparing food altogether.
  • Do not use the same towel or face cloth as someone who is suffering with food borne illness.
  • Clear up soiling accidents straightaway, wash with hot soapy water and disinfect with a disinfectant or bleach.
  • Disinfect door and toilet handles, taps and the toilet seat after use and disinfect the toilet bowl frequently.
  • Drink plenty of fluids while you are ill to prevent dehydration.

Can I still go to work?

Anyone working in a food business or health care/nursery worker must not handle food or enter a food handling area if they:

  • are suffering from, or carrying, a disease likely to be transmitted through food
  • have infected wounds, skin infections, sores 
  • have diarrhoea.

Anyone working in a food business:

  • who is affected by any of these; and
  • is likely to come into contact with food through their work

must tell the business owner or manager immediately about the illness or symptoms and, if possible, what has caused them.

Staff with diarrhoea or vomiting should not return to work until they have had no symptoms for 48 hours.

If you have any queries relating to food poisoning or infectious disease, you can contact us.

Useful forms

Contact details

Post address:
Food and Safety Team
Derby City Council
The Council House
Corporation Street
Phone: 01332 640779
Minicom: 01332 640666
Fax: 01332 643299
Food and Safety Team
Derby City Council
The Council House
Corporation Street