WRS investigate reports of alleged food poisoning and other infectious diseases notified to us by Public Health England [PHE] or by individuals. The main purpose of any investigation is to control and prevent the spread of food borne illness and environmental infections.
If you think food you have eaten has made you ill, you will usually need to get this confirmed by your GP or, for some reports, an Environmental Health Officer will ask you to provide a faecal sample for testing.
Please be aware that we do not automatically investigate single complaints of illness. We will, however, record the information you provide so we can check for any links between complaints we receive. An investigation may take place if further reports of illness are received.
If an outbreak occurs (this means more than two people are ill connected to the same event or family), we will undertake a joint investigation with Public Health England.
Common causes of food related illness are salmonella spp and campylobacter. Illness can also be caused by staphylococcus aureus, clostridium perfringens, listeria and e-coli (STEC) infections. Onset times for illnesses can vary but typically it will be 24-72 hours. The most common symptoms are diarrhoea and/or vomiting.
For more information on infectious diseases and onset times visit: https://www.gov.uk/topic/health-protection/infectious-diseases
Food poisoning can be caused by:
Another common cause of gastroenteritis is viruses, eg. norovirus which is easily spread and is often the cause of outbreaks of illness in group settings eg. weddings, on cruise ships, in care. Onset is typically 24 hours or less. Good personal hygiene, especially hand washing, will help prevent this infection. You can avoid passing on infection by good hygiene practices, including thoroughly washing hands with soap and hot water after using the toilet and especially before preparing food for others, sanitising surfaces, handles, etc and not sharing towels.
It may not be the last thing you ate that made you ill. It may not be food related.
You will be asked about your food history and other activities for up to two weeks to help try and trace the source of your illness. All data collected in questionnaires is passed on to the PHE National Laboratory at Colindale where it is analysed to check for nationally linked outbreaks.
If you work with food or in a care setting and are suffering from a gastric illness or in close contact with someone else who is, then you should advise your employer and stay away from work until you are symptom free for 48 hours.
Young children who are ill should not attend not attend school or nursery until they are free of symptoms for 48 hours.
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH OFFICERS HAVE THE POWERS TO STOP YOU WORKING OR CHILDREN ATTENDING SCHOOL AND MAY ADVISE YOUR EMPLOYER OF YOUR ILLNESS
If no food poisoning bacteria are found in your sample then your symptoms will be associated with another source or medical condition.
If your sample results show that you have food poisoning and your food history links this to a specific food business, we will investigate further.
If you have contacted your illness from premises outside Worcestershire, we will liaise with the relevant local authority on your behalf.
Many cases of food poisoning are caused by unsafe food preparation or storage. Avoid food poisoning at home by thorough cleaning (using sanitisers), separating raw and cooked food, proper cooking and chilling. Consuming raw (unpasteurised) milk can also cause illness.
WRS also undertakes investigations into illnesses which may be environmentally linked, eg. e coli, legionella, shigella, typhoid. Any investigation will be similar to that for foodborne illness.
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Worcestershire Regulatory Services
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