Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is the common name given to predominantly gastro-intestinal infections which arise after the consumption of food or drink that is contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, parasites or viruses. In most cases, the food that causes the illness has been contaminated by bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli, or a virus, such as the norovirus.

The symptoms of food poisoning usually begin one to three days after eating the contaminated food and include;

  • Feeling sick.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Stomach cramps.

The main risk from food poisoning is dehydration, so it is important to have lots to drink to try to avoid dehydration.

Foods that are particularly vulnerable to contamination if they are not handled, stored or cooked properly include:

  • Raw meat and poultry.
  • 'Ready to eat' foods such as cooked sliced meats, pate, soft cheeses and pre-packed sandwiches.
  • Dairy products, such as eggs and milk.

E. coli Outbreak

September 2005 saw the largest ever outbreak of E.Coli O157 in Wales and the second largest in the United Kingdom, where there were more than 150 cases reported.

You can become infected through the consumption of contaminated foods, particularly inadequately cooked minced beef and milk. Outbreaks have been associated with yogurt, cooked meats, meat pies, cheese, dry cured salami, raw vegetables, salad vegetables, unpasteurised apple juice and water.

Treatment of Food Poisoning

The majority of patients don’t require specific treatment from food poisoning and make a full recovery. However, medical advice should be sought in instances where the illness lasts for more than a few days or the general condition worsens.

Preventing Food Poisoning

Many cases of food poisoning can be prevented by the correct storage (i.e. avoiding keeping raw and cooked meats together in the fridge) and adequate cooking of foods (i.e. reaching adequate temperatures to kill bacteria) and employing hygienic food handling and preparation procedures.

More information on food poisoning can be found on Public Health Wales.