Find out what to do if you think you have food poisoning. If you're a food business or someone working with food, find information and advice on food poisoning and infectious diseases.

Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. What to do about food poisoning

If you think you have food poisoning - visit your doctor

Food poisoning, normally caused when bacteria in food grow beyond safe levels, is becoming increasingly widespread.

If you're suffering from the common symptoms - diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever and headaches - you should see your doctor, having noted down all the foods you ate for three days before you were ill. Your doctor will carry out tests and confirm if your illness is a result of bacterial food poisoning.

With certain illnesses, including bacterial food poisoning, the doctor or laboratory will let us know of the results, confirming that you have food poisoning.

Lambeth Council food health and safety team will then get in touch with you and ask you to complete a questionnaire detailing a short history of what, when and where you recently ate, to help us try to identify where the illness came from.

If you or the person suffering food poisoning are a food handler or work with vulnerable people (ie children or older people) you should not work with food until you have been free from symptoms for at least 48 hours.

If a particular food premises is involved, we may carry out an investigation. We will check each case of food poisoning against others we've received, to identify any common links.

For more information about our role in food poisoning, contact:

Email: foodhealthandsafety@lambeth.gov.uk Telephone: 020 7926 6110

2. Stop sickness spreading

You can help stop the spread of food poisoning and infectious diseases, at home, at work and at school. This advice is for use if you or a family member or colleague has sickness or diarrhoea.

Wash your hands

This is the most important thing you can do to stop the spread of sickness. Although the hands may appear clean, germs picked up by touching solid items and surfaces can be passed on the next time you touch something, someone or food.

Always wash hands:

  • Whenever you use the toilet
  • Before handling and preparing food
  • Whenever you clear up faeces or vomit
  • Before and after dressing wounds
  • Before and after changing babies' nappies
  • Before feeding a baby or child
  • Whenever you help a child to use a potty or toilet. Ensure young children have their hands washed after using the toilet, after playing in the garden and after touching/playing with pets
  • After handling pets food, utensils or litter trays
  • After handling rubbish eg bins

Make sure you use plenty of soap and water and rub all over the hands. Liquid soap and paper towels are the most effective.

Give special attention to finger tips, thumbs, between the fingers and the backs of the hands as these areas are easy to miss.

Dry thoroughly on your own towel or paper towels eg kitchen roll.

In the bathroom

  • Regularly clean and dry flush handles, toilet seats, surfaces, door knobs, light switches and taps using a disinfectant
  • Use separate towels for each family member
  • When handling soiled bedding and clothing, use rubber gloves and clean any surfaces that it has touched *Clean and dry changing mats and potties after each use

In the kitchen

  • Do not prepare food for others if you have food poisoning or an infectious disease

At work

  • If you handle food at work, as your job, please inform your manager and do not return to work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped
  • If you are a health care worker you should inform your manager and seek advice from Environmental Health, Occupational Health or your GP about returning to work

Nursery and school

  • Keep children/babies away until symptoms have stopped for 48 hours
  • Children over five years old and able to maintain good hygiene should be kept away from school until symptoms have stopped for 48 hours

Swimming

  • Always shower before swimming in a pool
  • The areas normally covered by a nappy should be thoroughly clean in young children and babies
  • Use the toilet before swimming
  • Do not take babies and very young children swimming until two days after diarrhoea and vomiting has completely stopped.

3. More information

We can provide advice on the prevention and control of a range of infectious illnesses and, in particular, how to avoid and deal with food poisoning.

We publish a range of leaflets containing information and advice on infectious disease and food safety.

If you would like further information on any of these issues, please contact us:

Email: foodhealthandsafety@lambeth.gov.uk
Telephone: 020 7926 6110

Factsheets on infectious diseases

See useful factsheets from GOV.UK on different infectious diseases, including Giardia and Shingella:

Useful websites

For more advice and information, visit:

Public health England - health protection website

NHS Choices website - food safety