Food poisoning and infectious disease

If you believe that you have food poisoning, you should contact your GP as soon as possible.

Your GP can arrange for you to supply a stool sample, to be examined at a laboratory. This will confirm if your illness is the result of bacterial food poisoning. If necessary, this Council can supply specimen pots for your sample.

It is almost impossible to prove a case of food poisoning without the results of a stool sample.

Certain illnesses, including bacterial food poisoning, are notifiable. This means that the laboratory will notify this Council of the results of the sample examined by them, confirming that someone has food poisoning. So, if you have a confirmed case of food poisoning, then you will be contacted by us.

If you, or the person suffering food poisoning is a food handler, or works with vulnerable people (i.e. young children or the elderly) they should not work with food until free of all symptoms for at least 48 hours.

We will also ask you to complete a questionnaire detailing a short history of what, when and where you recently ate, to assist us in trying to identify where your illness came from.

Where it appears that a particular food premises may be involved, then further investigations may be carried out.

If the food premises are located outside Burnley Borough Council’s area, then details will be passed to the relevant Council for their attention.

Details of each case of food poisoning will also be checked against others received by us to identify any common links, which may then be further investigated.

Important Information

  • It is unlikely that any formal action will be taken against a food business without any evidence from the premises (such as the isolation of the harmful bacteria in sampled food)
  • If you still have any of the suspect food and it has been refrigerated then please freeze it. This will preserve it and allow us to send it off to the public health laboratory. Unfortunately, if the food has not been refrigerated, it will have spoiled and it is unlikely that any food poisoning bacteria will be found
  • “Off” tastes are caused by spoilage moulds and bacteria which will not normally cause you to have a severe illness. Food poisoning bacteria do not cause the food to taste or smell any different from normal
  • Symptoms similar to food poisoning may also be caused by viruses, such as Norovirus which, whilst unpleasant for about 24 hours, are not necessarily caused by food
  • There are a number of different bacteria that can cause food poisoning symptoms, but they all take different times to develop in our bodies. Because this incubation time may be many hours or days, it is not generally the last food you ate that has made you ill