What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning is caused by contamination, usually by bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli or campylobacter.
It can also come from viruses such as the norovirus, which is actually the most common stomach bug in the UK.
It usually takes 1-3 days for food poisoning to develop, and symptoms include feeling sick, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
The most common causes are undercooked meat, unrefrigerated or out-of-date ingredients, and sick or dirty people touching the food.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) runs a scheme where kitchens are inspected and rated out of five.
They inspect everything from restaurants and pubs to hotels and supermarkets, and you’ll see their green Food Hygiene Rating stickers in many places.
There’s a useful search function on ratings.food.gov.uk, however, which will reveal all about the businesses in your area.
A government study released in June 2014 found that, while 500,000 people are diagnosed with food poisoning from specific bugs each year, there are enough ‘unknown pathogens’ in untested sufferers to more than double that number.
The report also found that campylobacter was the most common cause with 280,000 cases, while salmonella caused the most hospital admissions – around 2500 per year.
The riskiest foods include poultry and veg
Poultry was the runaway riskiest food with 244,000 cases per annum, but more surprisingly vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds were second as a group with 48,000 victims.
There’s little that can be done to treat food poisoning, though you should rest and drink plenty of water.
It’s best to avoid food until you’ve really improved, and then eat easily digested things such as toast.
The main thing is to avoid dehydration, say the NHS, who recommend Oral Rehydration Salts for the over 65s and anyone with immune system problems, such as sufferers of cancer or HIV.
When you should see the doctor
*Your symptoms are severe, even after a few days
*You have a temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or over
*You’re severely dehydrated (look for sunken eyes and dark, strong-smelling urine)
*There has been an outbreak of similar cases
*You have a baby with food poisoning.
If you suspect your food poisoning came from a specific shop or restaurant, you should contact your environmental health office.