Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food. It's not usually serious and most people get better within a few days without treatment.

In most cases of food poisoning, the food is contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella Opens in a new window or Escherichia coli Opens in a new window (E. coli), or a virus, such as the norovirus Opens in a new window. For the causes of food poisoning visit the NHS Choices Opens in a new window website.

Suspected food poisoning

If you suspect you are suffering food poisoning it is recommended that you visit your doctor as soon as possible, who may arrange some tests and will give you some advice.  The only way to find out if you do have food poisoning is by supplying a stool sample to your GP.

  Report food poisoning

Normally we will not investigate an individual food poisoning allegation without a positive laboratory confirmation via your doctor.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually begin several days after eating contaminated food and may include some of the following:

  • feeling sick
  • stomach cramps
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea

The illness may last between 1 and 7 days but can be up to 21 days or more. You can also carry the organism in your gut for some time after your symptoms Opens in a new window have stopped.

Our advice leaflet provides advice on preventing spreading infection, treatment and food preparation.

You can find out how to prevent food poisoning on the NHS Choices Opens in a new window website.

How long should I stay off Work or School?

Usually you can return to work once you are symptom free and feel well enough.

If you are working with food, or with vulnerable groups of people such as the young, the elderly or those in poor health, you must tell your employer about your illness and not return to work until you have been symptom free for 48 hours.

Children should not attend playgroups, child minders or nursery school until they have been symptom free for 48 hours.

There are also some infections such as E Coli 0157 that require negative stool samples before you can go back to work.