What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is a general term applied to illnesses picked up from eating contaminated food or drinking water.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Fever

The time it takes from eating contaminated food and becoming unwell (called the incubation period) varies between each type or organism, and in some cases can be up to 14 days. It is therefore important to realise that the last meal that you ate may not actually be the cause of your symptoms.

There are many different types of organisms (e.g. bacteria, viruses, parasites) that can cause stomach upsets, including vomiting and diarrhoea. If you suffer from these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that you have food poisoning.


The most common cause of upset stomachs in the UK is from a viral infection called Norovirus. This is also known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’ and has been responsible for large outbreaks and the closure of hospital wards. Symptoms normally only last for 24 to 48 hours, and recovery is usually quick. It is not necessarily associated with eating contaminated food. It is easily passed from person to person, so strict personal hygiene standards are necessary to prevent it from spreading.

Food and Safety team

Open 9am–5pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays)

Address: PO Box 15
Council House
Earl Street

Telephone: 08085 834333