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eMed previously Babylon Health

Food Poisoning

Reviewed by Dr Claudia Pastides, 24th April 2019

Food poisoning is a particularly nasty illness caused by contaminated food. The most common types of bacteria and viruses we know about which cause food poisoning are campylobacter, salmonella, E.coli and norovirus. You will usually notice symptoms of food poisoning within a couple of hours of eating the contaminated food or up to a few days later, and in most cases people recover without the need for any treatment. If you’re not feeling any better within a few days, you should speak to GP.

Food poisoning symptoms

If you have food poisoning you will experience one or more of these main symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite

Dehydration is also a possible symptom of food poisoning, so it’s very important to try and drink fluids while you are recovering.

Causes of food poisoning

The main source of food poisoning is contaminated food - usually meat, poultry or dairy products. Food can be contaminated at any stage of the production and cooking process, and is caused by types of bacteria, parasites or viruses. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, which is usually found on raw meat, poultry and unpasteurised milk.

Prevent contaminating food at home by:

  • Storing it properly and keeping raw meat at the bottom of the refrigerator
  • Avoid cross contamination by washing cooking utensils and equipment during food preparation
  • Always cook food thoroughly
  • Always wash hands before preparing food or handling raw meat
  • Don’t reheat food more than once
  • Do not wash raw meat or poultry


Food poisoning will usually go away on its own, so in most cases you should just wait for the illness to run its course. The medical advice includes:

  • Replace fluids lost by drinking plenty of water
  • Avoid food and drinks which will make the symptoms worse – caffeine, alcohol, spicy and fatty food
  • Eat when you can and introduce bland foods such as crackers, toast and rice.

However, if you find that your symptoms are very severe (you can’t stop vomiting) or they haven’t passed within a few days, you should speak to a doctor. Speak to a GP within minutes.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.