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Food poisoning

We investigate cases of food poisoning or other food borne illnesses in County Durham.

If you have food poisoning, do not return to school or work until 48 hours after you have recovered.

The purpose of this investigation is to try to prevent the spread of illness and establish possible causes. Depending upon the exact nature of the infection, investigation will either be carried out by us or the Consultant in Communicable Disease Control (CCDC).

We also provide advice on how to prevent the spread of disease within your home. 

The time taken from eating the food to feeling unwell varies with each type of organism. In some cases it can be up to 10-15 days after consumption of the food. This could mean that the last meal you ate may not be the cause of your symptoms.

There are many types of food borne illness caused by different bacteria. These include:

  • campylobacter 
  • salmonella 
  • e.coli 0157 
  • staphylococcus aureus 
  • listeria     

What you must do

If you have food poisoning, you should not return to school or work until 48 hours after you have recovered, and your stools have returned to normal.

Certain groups of people pose a higher risk of spreading infection, and should contact us before returning to work, school or nursery. These groups include:

  • anyone of doubtful personal hygiene or with unsatisfactory toilet, handwashing or hand drying facilities at home, work or school.
  • children who attend pre-school groups or nursery.
  • people whose work involves preparing or serving unwrapped foods that are not subject to further heating or cooking.
  • clinical and social care staff who have direct contact with highly susceptible patients or people that a gastrointestinal infection would have particularly serious consequences.       

If you have any doubt on when you should return to work please contact us.

What we must do

If you do contact us, we will ask you a series of questions, including:

  • what you ate in the week prior to your illness
  • where you do your shopping
  • whether anyone else has been ill, for example your friends or relations
  • whether you've been on holiday abroad
  • your occupation, and that of your family members 
  • whether or not your GP has taken a faecal sample       

Any information you provide will be treated in the strictest confidence. If  more than one person has the same food poisoning-type symptoms and have eaten the same food, this may be due to a food poisoning outbreak.  Our investigation into the outbreak will involve:

  • interviewing people who are ill
  • interviewing others who ate at the venue but didn't have symptoms
  • taking faecal and food samples (if appropriate)

If there is enough evidence implicating a food premises within the area as a possible source of the outbreak, we will carry out a food hygiene inspection.

Contact us
Food Safety
03000 261 016
Our address is:
  • Community Protection
  • Durham County Council
  • PO Box 617
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 9HZ
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