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Infectious diseases & food poisoning

What should I do if I suspect I have food poisoning?

If you suspect you are suffering from an infectious disease, including food poisoning, it is recommended that you consult your GP as soon as possible. please see our Food Poisoning webpage for further information. If you think you have been infected following a visit to a premises in Dudley, please make a food complaint or a health and safety complaint to us.

Causes of food poisoning

Food poisoning may be caused by a variety of sources including:

  • bacteria

  • viruses

  • chemicals

  • metals

  • poisonous plants/animals.

Food poisoning commonly occurs when:

  • high risk food is contaminated
  • bacteria multiply in the food
  • bacteria survive within the food.

Bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning. Bacteria can multiply in food and usually a large number of bacteria are required to make people ill.

Viruses do not multiply in food but a smaller number are required to cause illness. Airborne infection is common and can spread easily from person to person.

Chemical food poisoning is rare and usually results from accidental ingestion of poisonous chemicals.

Metals can cause food poisoning; if food becomes contaminated with metals such as lead and mercury and is ingested it can cause illness.

Poisonous plants and animals such as Japanese Puffer Fish, Deadly Nightshade and certain toadstools can cause illness when ingested.

Food poisoning symptoms

Agent Source Incubation period Symptoms & usual duration
Salmonella Raw meat, poultry, eggs, unpasteurised milk, pets, terrapins, infected food handlers. 6-72 hours; usually 12-36 hours Diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain 1-5 days
Campylobacter Raw meat, poultry, raw/bird pecked milk, untreated water, pets. 1-11 days; usually 2-5 days Abdominal pain, diarrhoea 2-5 days



Found in environment, cattle, sheep, silage, unpasteurised milk products including soft cheeses, pates. Variable; usually 4-21 days Fever, affects central nervous system Variable



Human nose, mouth, cuts and wounds. 1-7 hours; usually 2-4 hours Vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fainting 6-24 hours



Faeces of animal and man, soil (on vegetable), dust, sewage. 8-22 hours; usually 12-18 hours Diarrhoea, abdominal pain 12-48 hours

Bacillus cereus

(toxin in food)

Cereal products, especially rice, spices, dust, soil. 1-5 hours Vomiting, abdominal pain, some diarrhoea 1-2 days

Bacillus cereus

(toxin in gut)

Cereal products, especially rice, spices, dust, soil. 8-16 hours Diarrhoea, abdominal pain, some vomiting 1-2 days



Sea water, shellfish. 2-48 hours; usually 10-18 hours Diarrhoea, abdominal pain, some vomiting 2-5 days
Escherichia coli (infective) Animal origins – cattle, sheep, humans, sewage, meat & raw milk. 12-72 hours; usually 12-24 hours Diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever 2-3 days
Clostridium botulinum Soil, meat, fish and vegetables 8 hours to 8 days; usually 12-36 hours Central nervous system (difficulty breathing, double vision, nerve paralysis), diarrhoea, vomiting Variable can be fatal
Chemicals (e.g. metallic poisons, pesticides, etc) Less than 1 hours Vomiting, abdominal pain, possibly effects on central nervous system
Poisonous plants/animals Less than 15 hours Vomiting, abdominal pain, possibly effects on central nervous system
Norwalk Virus 24-48 hours Vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain

Preventing food poisoning

The three basic steps to prevent food poisoning are:

  • Preventing contamination of food
  • Preventing multiplication of bacteria
  • Destroying bacteria

Preventing contamination

  • purchase food from reputable suppliers
  • maintain good hygiene standards
  • minimise handling
  • separate raw and cooked food, surfaces & equipment
  • cover food
  • ensure waste is stored and disposed of properly
  • effectively clean and disinfect all surfaces.

Preventing multiplication

  • keep food either below 5ºC or above 63ºC
  • cool food quickly and cover it
  • Don’t leave food at room temperature.

Destroying bacteria

  • thoroughly cooking (to 75ºC at core of food)

Where can I get further information?

The Health Protection Agency website has further information on Infectious Diseases. Alternatively, you can discuss any specific queries or concerns you may have with an environmental health officer. please contact us using the details below.

Useful Links

External Links

Contact Details

  • Name Food and Consumer Safety
  • Address People Directorate, 4 Ednam Road, Dudley, West Midlands DY1 1HL
  • Telephone 0300 555 2345