Food Poisoning and Infectious Disease

Food poisoning occurs where certain harmful germs are introduced into the body via food. These germs may themselves be poisonous and, if in sufficient numbers will cause a short sharp illness a few hours after eating contaminated food. Vomiting is the most common symptom in this case.

Some germs do not produce their poisons until they are in the body, and, due to the time taken for the poison to be produced, symptoms may not occur for several days after the food is eaten. Diarrhoea is a more typical symptom of this type of food poisoning.

The time taken from eating food to feeling unwell varies from hours and, in some cases up to 10 - 15 days after consumption.

The last meal you ate may not be the cause of your symptoms.

The main causes of food poisoning are:

  • Preparing food too far in advance
  • Not cooking food properly
  • Not defrosting food correctly
  • Storing food incorrectly so that bacteria can grow
  • Cross contamination of ready to eat foods including after after cooking
  • Infection from food handlers due to poor hygiene practices

It is important to remember that not all food poisoning is caused by eating out; it can happen at home too.

What Are the Causes of Food Poisoning?

There are many causes such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter

What Should I Do If I Think I Am Suffering From Food Poisoning?

If you think you have food poisoning you should:

  • Visit your doctor/GP as soon as possible in order to submit a stool/faecal sample for examination.
  • Wash your hands frequently especially after using the toilet and before handling food
  • Ensure you practice good personal hygiene

If you suspect food consumed from a food premises in the Outer Hebrides may be the cause of your illness, please contact us.

What Happens If It Is Confirmed That I Am Suffering From Food Poisoning?

Consumer and Environmental Health liaises closely with the NHS Western Isles Public Heath Team in the investigation of notified/confirmed cases of food-borne disease.

Whenever a confirmed case of food poisoning is identified following receipt of positive results from the microbiology laboratory, the Public Health Team contacts Consumer and Environmental Health to investigate the possible source of the poisoning. If there are a few cases linked together, outbreak control measures may have to be taken.  In some cases, persons in contact with the affected person may also be excluded from work, especially where they work in the food industry or work with vulnerable people.

What Happens to the Results of the Investigation?

All results are recorded centrally by Health Protection Scotland who compile a national picture of cases, outbreaks and their causes.

Please Remember

You cannot see, smell or taste the bacteria that cause food poisoning.

You are not suffering from food poisoning until you have provided a faecal sample via your GP surgery which has been examined in a microbiological laboratory and been shown to contain food poisoning bacteria.

Viruses are also a common cause of illness/infection which often present the same symptoms i.e. vomiting and/or diarrhoea, as food poisoning. Spread of this type of infection can be quick and easy and is often from person to person, but can also occur via aerosols or environmental contamination. The symptoms of a viral illness are often characterised by their swift onset and self-limiting nature, generally lasting no more than 24 to 72 hours. Cases should remain absent from work until 48 hours after their symptoms cease, as this helps to stop the spread of illness

Contact Us

If you have any specific queries or concerns, please contact us: Consumer and Environmental Services