Food poisoning: the facts and the symptoms
Although food poisoning is rarely life-threatening, customers who get it after eating a product from a restaurant or cafe are unlikely to return as it could be a sign of bad food hygiene.
Contracting food poisoning is unlikely to cause death, however it can lead to dangerous illnesses. In less serious cases, if it is the result of poor food hygiene at a specific eatery, or after eating a specific product, customers are unlikely to return. Therefore, it is crucial that food handlers and food business owners recognise the facts and symptoms of food poisoning.
There are many instances where people mistake food poisoning symptoms for a common bug or unrelated illness so it’s important to be aware of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) guidance.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
- Feeling sick (nausea)
- Diarrhoea (sometimes containing blood or mucus)
- Stomach cramps and tummy pain
- Lack of energy and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- High temperature (fever)
If a person has food poisoning, they are likely to develop symptoms of the illness within a week of eating the food. While many people think the symptoms develop within a couple of hours, they can actually start at any point between a few hours, several weeks or even months later.
Unless symptoms become severe, the majority of people recover from food poisoning at home without any specific treatment. Nevertheless, the FSA advises drinking plenty of liquid to prevent dehydration. This is especially the case in the elderly or very young. Most types of food poisoning only last a few days so if symptoms continue longer than this visiting your local GP is recommended.
In the summer, food poisoning can be attributed to bugs such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria and some E. coli. Here we take a look at the facts behind these types of food poisoning.
What is Campylobacter?
According to the FSA, Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK and causes severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea, headache and fever.
While it can’t be seen, food handlers must ensure poultry, meat, dairy products, unpasteurised milk and shellfish are safe to consume, as this is where Campylobacter is usually found. It can be spread by cross-contamination, contaminated water or infected animals and their food. This type of food poisoning can cause permanent disability.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is one of the more well-known types of food bug and is found in raw meat, undercooked poultry, eggs and unpasteurised milk.
Food handlers must be aware that this is usually spread by inadequate cooking and cross-contamination, highlighting just how important it is to keep cooking and kitchen areas as clean and safe as possible. Salmonella can make you ill for up to three weeks with symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever, vomiting and stomach pains.
What is E. coli?
Just like Salmonella, E.coli can thrive in raw and undercooked meats. It can also spread through other contaminated foods like vegetables and salads, water or unpasteurised milk. Those working with food must also ensure they wash their hands regularly as E.coli can be passed on from person to person.
The FSA says that 50 per cent of those suffering from this type of food poisoning have bloody diarrhoea. Other symptoms include stomach cramps and vomiting and can last for up to two weeks. When it comes to children with the illness, especially those under the age of four, it can cause haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), which is a serious condition affecting the kidneys.
What is Listeria?
Listeria is one of the less common types of food-related illnesses but should a person catch the illness they have more chance of being hospitalised. The risk of listeriosis increases for those aged over 65 years, very young children and newborn babies. For unborn babies and pregnant women Literia is especially dangerous, which means they should take care with soft cheese, smoked fish, meat pates and pre-packed sandwiches.