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Food poisoning

Food poisoning, although very unpleasant, is not usually serious and usually gets better within a week. You can normally treat yourself or your child at home.

On this page:

Identifying if you have food poisoning

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. The symptoms may start suddenly and can include vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea and fever.

It can take time for symptoms to start after eating contaminated food or water. This is known at the incubation period, and can last from several hours and up to 21 days. This can make it difficult to identify the food which caused the illness.

Information on Norovirus, which has very similar symptoms and can often be identified as food poisoning can be found on the  NHS Direct website.

How to report food poisoning

If you think a business in the New Forest has caused food poisoning, report it to us below. We will need the name and address of the business, the date and time of when the suspected food was eaten, when and which symptoms you suffered and whether any other people in your group were affected.

The incubation period can make it difficult to investigate complaints about food poisoning, particularly if no other people have reported similar symptoms, or if there is no doctor's confirmation of the illness type.

A complaint can be made to us via the Food Standards Agency complaint portal using the link below.

You can also report complaints to us using our contact details below.

Symptoms of food poisoning

Symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • diarrhoea
  • being sick (vomiting)
  • stomach cramps
  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • feeling generally unwell - such as feeling tired or having aches and chills

The symptoms usually start within a few days of eating the food that caused the infection, but may start after only a few hours or not for a few weeks.

If you suspect you are suffering food poisoning, visit your doctor as soon as possible. You may be asked to submit a sample for examination. Samples are useful as they might show which food-borne illness you are suffering from or could rule out food poisoning. You may also find out if you have been suffering from a virus.

How you get food poisoning

Food poisoning is caused by eating something that has been contaminated with germs.

This can happen if food:

  • is not cooked or reheated thoroughly
  • is not stored correctly - for example, it's not been frozen or chilled, or it hasn't been defrosted properly
  • is left out for too long
  • is handled by someone who's ill or has not washed their hands
  • is eaten after its "use by" date
  • is cross-contaminated with other foods after cooking

Any type of food can cause food poisoning.

Prevent the spread of illness

If you or a member of your family are suffering from the symptoms of food poisoning, follow the advice below to try and prevent the spread of the illness.

  • Wash your hands after contact with the sick person, and before handling food.
  • Do not use the same towel or face cloth as someone who is suffering with illness.
  • Clear up soiling accidents straight away, wash with hot soapy water and disinfect with a disinfectant or bleach.
  • Disinfect door and toilet handles, taps and the toilet seat after use. Disinfect the toilet bowl frequently.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Food handlers and care workers

If the ill person is a food handler or healthcare/nursery worker with highly susceptible patients, they cannot return to work until they have been symptom-free for 48 hours. They must also inform their employer of their symptoms.

Children aged under five years, or individuals unable to maintain good standards of personal hygiene, should not return until they have also been symptom-free for 48 hours.

Food-borne illness and infectious disease types

There are many types of food-borne illness caused by different bacterium and viruses. The Food Standards Agency, NHS and websites provide information on the most common, as listed below.

Contact us

For further information about food poisoning and infectious disease, contact us using the details below.


Phone: 023 8028 5411

Food and Safety Team, New Forest District Council
Appletree Court, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7PA

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