Environmental Health Officers in the Business Compliance team work closely with colleagues at the Greater Manchester Health Protection Agency, the Ashton Wigan and Leigh Primary Care Trust, the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust, and the Food, Environmental and Microbiological Services (North West). We respond, as directed or as appropriate, to all notifications of infectious disease, food borne illness and food poisoning and take responsibility for the investigation, management and control of some sporadic, all multiple cases and outbreaks of food borne illness and communicable diseases.
What are the causes of food poisoning or food-borne illnesses?
Many people believe it is always the last meal or food premise they have eaten at that has made them ill. However, it is important to realise that this is not necessarily the case. The onset set of symptoms from eating contaminated food can vary. Symptoms may occur from a short period of time or days after consumption of contaminated food.
Some of the main causes of food poisoning or food borne illness include:
- Not Cooking food properly
- Food out of temperature control (refrigeration, hot hold) for a prolong period of time
- Poor personal hygiene which can contaminate food
- Consuming food past its use by date
What are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning/ Food-Borne related Illness?
- Stomach cramps
This is not an exhaustive list but are some of the main symptoms of food poisoning/food borne illness.
What do I do if I have symptoms of food poisoning/food borne illness?
If you suspect you are suffering food poisoning it is strongly recommended that you visit your doctor as soon as possible, before you contact the council. The doctor may ask you to submit a faecal/urine sample for examination. This will help to determine what specific food poisoning bug may have caused your illness, or you may find out that it may have been something else making you feel unwell such as a viral infection. This is very common as the symptoms are similar.
Samples are very useful for our environmental health officers, because if a specific food poisoning bug is identified it will help officers to focus on the likely source of the illness.
If test results confirm that you have or are suffering from food poisoning then your GP, other local authority or The Health Protection Agency will notify the Council. Or you may contact the council yourself.
What will the investigation by an Environmental Health Officer involve?
Once we have received notification of confirmed food poisoning or food borne illness we will carry out an investigation. This may involve contacting the person suffering from illness and asking questions such as:
- What and where they have eaten prior to their illness
- Is there any food remaining
- When did the symptoms begin?
- Explain the symptoms they have been experiencing
- Have they been abroad?
- Is there anyone else suffering with the same symptos?
We may need to contact and speak to others who are suffering from similar symptoms.
If a food business is implicated then we may inspect the premises, take food samples. and provide advice to prevent the spread of illness
If the person suffering from symptoms is a food handler, clinical and social care staff who has direct contact with or contact through serving food to highly susceptible patients or persons in whom an intestinal infection would have serious consequences, they cannot return to work for 48 hours after they are symptom free. They must also inform their employer of their symptoms.
How can I prevent the spread of infection?
- Hand washing is one of the most important ways of controlling the spread of infections. It is strongly recommended to use liquid soap, hot water and disposable paper towel. It is always important to always wash your hands after using the toilet, before eating, handling and wash your hands after contact with the sick person.
- Do not use the same towel as someone who is suffering from illness.
- Disinfect door, toilet handles, taps, and the toilet seat after use and disinfect the toilet bowl regularly.