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When people suffer sickness and diarrhoea they often suspect they are suffering from food poisoning. However, these symptoms can also result from viral infections, which may be airborne, or some other cause, and may not in fact be food related.
The only way of finding out whether you have food poisoning is to provide a stool (faeces) sample for testing. This can be arranged by your GP. If you have medical concerns, you should seek advice from your GP.
The Environmental Health Department will investigate reports of illness. Please contact us to report such illnesses or make a complaint about a food premises that you think might be linked to your illness.
Very often, persons suffering from suspected food poisoning feel sure that the cause is the last meal eaten, especially if this happens to be a meal at a restaurant or takeaway.
But, food poisoning bacteria take quite a long time before actually making you ill. On average between 12-24 hours and sometimes longer. So it is more likely that the cause of the illness is something eaten the previous day or even 2-3 days earlier. Some illnesses can take up to 7 days before you show any symptoms.
Reports of food poisoning reach the Environmental Health department by different routes. Sometimes people have seen their GP who then reports the illness to the local authority. Doctors are required by law to report either confirmed or suspected food poisoning to the Environmental Health department.
Affected persons may also notify the department directly, without first having seen their GP. The department will respond to all cases by telephoning the affected person and asking for a lot of details about the illness, including the dates and times of symptoms, a food history, your job and details of persons in your household. This information can be vital in preventing further spread of the infection. You will also be asked to provide a stool specimen if you have not already done so.
If you report that your illness is related to a specific restaurant or takeaway in the area an Environmental Health Officer will want to discuss the matter in detail with you.
In most cases it is very difficult to connect an event of gastric illness to a particular business. Very often the food eaten will have been destroyed by the time your illness shows its symptoms, or no stool sample are provided to actually confirm food poisoning, or the incident is reported after the person is well so a sample would be pointless.
Of course, if a whole group of people, at a party or wedding reception, for example, are all affected by the same symptoms at the same time then circumstantial evidence may be all that is needed to take the matter further.
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