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Food poisoning is an illness, usually caused by eating or drinking food or water contaminated by bacteria (germs) or the poisons that they produce. It can be caught from food eaten at home, at restaurants, or abroad.

If you think you have food poisoning from food from a business in Dudley, please contact us (details at bottom of this page).

The common symptoms associated with food poisoning include:-

  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • nausea and
  • stomach cramps.

These usually occur within 2 to 36 hours of consumption of the food, although with some types of food poisoning, illness may not occur for days or even weeks. The last thing eaten is not necessarily the cause of the food poisoning. The symptoms usually last between one and seven days, although this may be longer. All the time you have the symptoms, and in some cases for some time after, you can transmit the infection to other people if you are not careful. 

How do I get food poisoning?

Food poisoning is mainly caught from contaminated food. The common causes of food poisoning are:

  • under cooked meat or poultry
  • inadequate temperature control of food
  • food contaminated by raw meat or poultry
  • food contaminated by food handlers with unclean hands
  • food contaminated by unclean equipment
  • incorrect storage, handling, preparation and cooking of food can lead to food poisoning, in your own home as well as in food businesses. Unfortunately, contaminated food usually looks, smells and tastes fine, so you cannot tell that it is contaminated.

What do I do if I or someone related to me has food poisoning?

Take care with your hygiene and in particular, wash your hands thoroughly:

  • after using the toilet
  • before handling food and
  • before eating or feeding others.

You generally you can return to work when your symptoms have cleared, unless the Environmental Health Service or your doctor tell you not to. Children should return to school 24 hours after the first normal stool, and nursery when their symptoms have cleared for 48 hours.

However, food handlers suffering from food poisoning must report this matter to the Environmental Health Service or their employer, by law. If you:

  • work as a food handler
  • work in healthcare (e.g care home, nursing home, hospital)
  • work with the elderly
  • work with children under five years old

You must not return to work until you have checked with us, see bottom of this page for contact details. 

What causes food poisoning?

Each type of food poisoning has a characteristic incubation period (the time it takes from consumption to symptoms) and predominant symptoms depending on the cause.

Food poisoning may be caused by:

  • bacteria and their toxins
  • viruses
  • chemicals (e.g. insecticides and cleaning agents)
  • metals (e.g. lead and mercury)
  • poisonous plants and animals (e.g. deadly nightshade, toadstools, Japanese puffer fish)

Bacteria are the most common causes of food poisoning and usually an extremely large number of the bacteria are required to make people ill.

Viruses also cause cases of vomiting and diarrhoea. They do not multiply in food but a much smaller number is required to make people ill. Air-borne infection is common and can spread easily from person to person.

Food poisoning from chemicals is rare and usually results from accidental ingestion when poisonous chemicals are stored in unlabelled bottles or food is contaminated with chemicals or additives.

Metallic poisoning causes vomiting and abdominal pains and results from the contamination of food and drink by contact with metals. Poisonous plants/animals are again a rare form of food poisoning, particularly in commercial premises.

What does the Council do?

The Food & Occupational Safety Team conducts investigations into infectious diseases to ascertain how they were acquired and what risk the individual poses to the community. We work closely with Public Health England, test laboratories, hospitals, GPs and members of the public to ensure risk to the public is minimised.

Where can I get further information about food poisoning?

Other sources of information on food poisoning include:

You can also contact us for advice about food poisoning using the contact details below.

E coli O157: Control of Cross-contamination

Guidance for Food Businesses

The Food Standards Agency has issued guidance for food businesses to clarify the steps needed to control the risk of food becoming contaminated by E.coli O157. This guidance has been developed in response to the serious outbreaks of E.coli O157 in Scotland in 1996 and Wales in 2005, which were attributed to cross-contamination arising from poor handling of food.

Although E.coli is the key focus of this guidance, the measures outlined will also help in the control of other bacteria, such as campylobacter and salmonella.

Key control measures

Some of the key measures highlighted in the guidance to control E.coli are:

  • Identification of separate work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Use of separate complex equipment, such as vacuum-packing machines, slicers, and mincers for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Handwashing should be carried out using a recognised technique. Anti-bacterial gels must not be used instead of thorough handwashing. Download a poster on how to wash your hands properly or visit the Food Standard's Agency Youtube page.
  • Disposable cloths should be used for cleaning wherever possible. Re-usable cloths should be washed on a hot cycle above 82 degrees celcius and allowed to thoroughly air dry.
  • Disinfectants and sanitisers should meet officially recognised British standards and be used as instructed by the manufacturer (A list of products meeting these British Standards can be found at the bottom of the page).
  • Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before use in order to remove any traces of soil (unless supplied washed/ready to eat)

The Food Standards Agency guidance is available to download from the following links:


  • Food and Trading Standards, 4 Ednam Road, Dudley, West Midlands DY1 1HL
    Telephone: 0300 555 2345

  • Monday to Friday, 8.45 am to 5.00 pm, Please note that the offices are closed at weekends and Bank Holidays