Food poisoning usually occurs as a result of eating food which has become contaminated through incorrect handling, storage or cooking. This allows viruses and bacteria to grow on food and when eaten, can cause a mild to severe illness depending on the individual and the cause of the food poisoning.
If you have become ill as a result of eating contaminated food prepared by someone else, claiming compensation for food poisoning is possible if you can show that neglect and carelessness has caused your injury.
The most common symptoms of food poisoning include:
- abdominal cramps
- mild fever
- aching limbs/joints
However, in some cases more severe symptoms may occur:
- kidney failure
- gastro-intestinal bleeding
Most food poisoning is caused by viruses which are spread by infected faecal contamination of food:
Norovirus -. symptoms usually develop 12-48 hours after exposure and include: diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headache and aching limbs which will last for about 2 – 3 days.
Rotavirus – symptoms usually develop 48 hours after exposure and include: fever, vomiting and watery diarrhoea which lasts from 3 to 9 days.
Hepatitis A – a moderate illness where symptoms can last for up to 2 months however, in some cases this may be longer. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, pale faeces, joint pain and jaundice, which results in a yellowing of the whites of the eyes and the skin.
Other food poisoning can be caused by bacteria which either causes inflammation of the intestines or produce toxic chemicals which are harmful when ingested by humans:
Salmonella – this is contracted by eating undercooked foods such as eggs, poultry, dairy products, and seafood. Symptoms include diarrhoea, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever which last for between 4-7 days.
Campylobacter – the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning. It is transmitted by poor hand hygiene after touching raw poultry and milk. It is also present in water which has been contaminated by animal faeces. Symptoms usually develop 2-5 days after exposure and include: diarrhoea which is sometimes blood stained, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms will usually last for about 2-3 days.
Staphylococcus Aureus – bacteria which produce a toxin in cooked foods that are not chilled properly such as, pies, cream filled cakes, sandwiches and salads. Causes moderate to severe illness with rapid onset (1-6 hours) of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps and fever which last for about 25-48 hours.
Bacillus Cereus – bacteria which produces toxins and is mainly associated with starchy food such as rice, pasta and potatoes. Reproduces very quickly at room temperature therefore, occurs when food is not heated or cooled to correctly. Causes mild illness with rapid onset (30 minutes) of vomiting, with or without diarrhoea and abdominal cramps which lasts for 24 hours
E coli – a variety of bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals. It is contracted by eating raw or undercooked meat particularly ground beef found in burgers. It is also found in unpasteurised milk and fruit juices and vegetables washed in water contaminated with cow manure. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea, which may be blood stained, fever and lethargy. Approximately 3% of cases can result in kidney failure and death.
Listeria – transmitted on many different types of chilled ready to eat food including, soft cheeses, cold meat cuts, pate, fruit, butter, smoked salmon and unpasteurized milk. It is particularly harmful to pregnant women as it can cause miscarriage, still births and neurological defects in new-born babies. There is also a link between Listeria and the development of Meningitis. Symptoms include; headache, fever, aching joints, diarrhoea and vomiting which last for about 3 days.
Botulism – bacteria which produces particularly toxic chemicals when ingested by humans. It is found in soil and transmitted in foods which have not been canned, preserved or cooked properly such as honey, seafood and sausages. Early symptoms include: nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea often followed by constipation and neurological symptoms including blurred vision, droopy eyelids, slurred speech and gradual paralysis. If left untreated it spreads to the lungs resulting in breathing difficulties and death.
Who’s most at risk?
In the majority of cases food poisoning will resolve in a few days without the need of any medical intervention however, there are some people who are at greater risk of complications. These include:
- Babies and infants
- Elderly people
- Those with chronic medical conditions, such as kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, cancer, AIDS and transplanted organs
- Pregnant women
Treating food poisoning
The main treatment of most types of food poisoning is preventing dehydration which can occur as a result of diarrhoea and vomiting and then reintroducing food slowly once nausea and vomiting have stopped.
- Drink at least 2 litres of water or weak cordial every day in small amounts plus an extra 200mls after each episode of diarrhoea. After vomiting, wait for between 5-10 minutes and then take small sips every few minutes
- Sugary drinks, alcohol and caffeine should be avoided
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods
- Once nausea and vomiting have stopped, start to eat again with simple foods such as toast, crackers or bananas
In the event of any of the following, you should seek immediate medical attention:
- Diarrhoea and vomiting lasting more than 2 days
- Babies and infants
- Elderly people
- Blood in diarrhoea or vomit
- Any signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes, dizziness, dry mouth/tongue and decreased urine output
- Unable to take regular medication due to persistent vomiting
- Pregnant women
- Blurred vision, muscle weakness or difficulty in breathing
- You have chronic medical conditions
- Other people who ate the same foods as you are also experiencing similar symptoms
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Persistent high fever
- If you contracted your infection abroad
- If you suspect you contracted food poisoning after eating in a restaurant or having a takeaway
Avoiding and preventing food poisoning
The ‘4 Cs’ to help prevent food poisoning (Food Standards Agency):
- Always clean work surfaces and utensils.
- Wash and clean surfaces after every use.
- Maintain good hand hygiene practices by washing hands regularly and always after going to the toilet and handling raw food.
- Always wash hands before preparing food and handling ‘ready-to-eat’ food.
- Do not prepare food for others within 48 hours of any episode of diarrhoea or vomiting.
- Cover any sores or cuts on hands with a waterproof plaster before you touch food.
- Change dish cloths and tea towels regularly.
- Ensure that all food, especially meat is cooked food thoroughly as high temperatures kill bacteria.
- Food should be reheated until it is piping hot in the middle.
- Don’t reheat food more than once.
- Avoid cross contamination of foods by keeping raw foods and cooked foods separate.
- Always wash your hands after touching raw foods.
- Chill and refrigerate food where necessary. Bacteria can multiply quickly at room temperature.
- Ensure your fridge is kept between 0°C and 5°C. Close the door after use to maintain a constant temperature.
- Cool leftover food quickly and then refrigerate.
- Always clean surfaces or use a different chopping board for preparing raw and ready-to-eat foods.
Other possible causes of illness and injury related to food:
- Out of Date Foods
- Incorrect Labelling
- Poisonous Plants – leading to food poisoning
- Foreign Bodies in Food – Sharp or Hard items
- Damaged Packaging – Metals or Plastic contamination
- Contaminated Food/Drink – colour, texture or bad taste
- Chemical Contaminating – bad taste or smell
Claiming Compensation For Food Poisoning
Claiming compensation for food poisoning can sometimes be difficult. With the help of Injury Claims Assistance our specialist solicitors will be able to handle every aspect of your claim and give you all the advice you need to start your claim so please contact us now. It is important to act quickly if you are considering claiming compensation for food poisoning as claims of this type require prompt action to identify the cause, gather evidence and apportion blame.