Food poisoning often starts with a bad bout of diarrhoea and or vomiting. It is understandable that you might think that the cause of your illness is the first thing you throw up, but in fact that can be far from the truth! In a recent survey carried out by Biomaster, 99% of respondents did not know that it takes a while for Campylobacter to make you ill after infection.
Campylobacter, the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning can take 2-5 days from infection to symptoms, known in the trade as the incubation period. So if you got some Campylobacter on your hands on Friday, and licked your fingers, prepared a sandwich or bit your nails, you may not be ill until the following Monday or Tuesday (and in some cases it could take 11 days to show signs of illness). This means that many people have little real idea about what caused their illness. Whilst chicken is associated with 4/5 cases of Campylobacter according to the Food Standards Agency, it may not be eating chicken that is causing the problem, but rather preparing it or picking up Campylobacter from packaging, or anything that has been in contact with packaging.
The key is to make sure that everyone is aware of where the bacteria may be lurking, and to stress above all the importance of washing your hands very carefully with soap and warm water after handling raw chicken or chicken packaging.
Listeria, a cause of miscarriage and serious illness, can take even longer – a number of weeks before the symptoms arise – meaning that many outbreaks may be missed, as individual cases may not be matched up after so long.
Norovirus is infectious in very small doses and you can pick it up from dirty surfaces via hand to mouth contact so it may have nothing to do with any food you ate.
So if you are ill with symptoms of food poisoning, pause for a moment and think about where you may have picked it up – it may well have been something other than the last thing you ate. So keep washing those hands and get rid of the germs – it’s all too easy to blame something or someone else, but many of us may be simply infecting ourselves! And if you can’t get to a basin, then use a hand gel.