Environmental Health Officers, in conjunction with the Public Health Agency, are involved in the surveillance, investigation and control of food poisoning and other communicable diseases. These diseases are investigated for a number of reasons:
- Trace the source of the infection
- Take any necessary action to prevent further spread of any infectious disease
- Trace any other persons who may have been infected or who may be at risk (family members, etc.)
- Offer advice to affected people and those who may be at risk e.g. on personal and food hygiene
The symptoms, duration and severity of food poisoning vary depending on the infectious agent and also the age and susceptibility of the person. Symptoms may include vomiting, headache, diarrhoea, fever or body rashes. They can last for several hours or up to a number of weeks. Symptoms usually develop between 12 and 36 hours from eating the contaminated food.
What should I do if I suspect I have Food Poisoning?
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms you should initially contact your GP who will arrange faecal/vomit samples which will confirm the food poisoning agent. If the sample is positive the Environmental Health Department will carry out an investigation. If you are a food handler or work with young or elderly you should notify your employer as you may be excluded from work until you have been given clearance by your GP. You should stay off work or school for at least 48 hours after the diarrhoea or vomiting has ceased.
How can I prevent Food Poisoning?
As well as eating out, food poisoning can happen in your own home. This can be prevented by:
- Watching the temperature. Fridges ideally should be kept around 5oC
- Hot food should be cooked properly and either kept hot or cooled quickly
- Avoid cross contamination of raw and ready-to-eat foods
- Keep your kitchen clean and use the right cleaning product for the job