GPs are under a legal duty to notify Luton Borough Council of all incidences of food borne illness for investigation.
Officers of the Food Control group investigate notifications of certain infectious diseases (particularly food poisoning) from GPs, the public, businesses and other local authorities.
Many different sorts of bacteria, parasites and viruses can cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea in people. The purpose of any investigation is to try to prevent the spread of illness within the family and the larger community and to try and find out what has caused it. Advice is given to the patient or the patient’s guardian if they are a child, on how this may be achieved.
Also it can help obtain information that may be able to assist us in our inspections of food businesses and food sampling programme. As soon as a food poisoning notification is received, we will contact the person with the symptoms (or their parent or guardian) and ask them questions regarding:
- What and where they've eaten prior to their illness
- Details of their symptoms
- Whether they've been on holiday abroad
- Whether or not their GP has taken a faecal sample
- Whether anybody else they ate with also experienced any symptoms
We may request any affected person to provide a faecal sample in order to try to confirm the cause of the food poisoning, if this hasn't been done already, and also to see whether they are still infected. If a person with symptoms is a food handler or health care/nursery worker who has contact with highly susceptible patients or persons in whom an intestinal infection would have serious consequences, they cannot return to work until they have been symptom-free for 48 hours. They must also inform their employer of their symptoms. Parents or guardians of children aged under 5 years or children or adults unable to implement good standards of personal hygiene, are advised to stay away from school or other establishments until they have also been symptom-free for 48 hours.
Food poisoning outbreaks
Officers also investigate outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting in institutions like residential care homes, nursing homes, children’s nurseries and schools. These may be caused because of problems with food but are more often caused by viruses spread by vomiting. An outbreak is where two or more cases with the same infection or symptoms occur around the same time and place.
Institutions like the ones listed above should know their general levels of illness, particularly cases with vomiting and/or diarrhoea, so that if there are raised levels from that normally observed, they know this may indicate an outbreak.
If a number of people ate at the same venue and have the same food poisoning-type symptoms, this may be due to a food poisoning outbreak. Our investigation into the outbreak will involve:
- interviewing people who are ill
- interviewing others who ate at the venue but didn't have symptoms taking faecal and food samples (if appropriate)
- inspecting the implicated venue
If there is enough evidence implicating a food premises within the Borough as a possible source of the outbreak, we may decide to carry out a food hygiene inspection and if necessary close the business until we are satisfied the practices are safe.
If you believe that you are suffering from food poisoning (i.e. sickness and diarrhoea), or if you require information on how to prevent food poisoning in the home please contact us by phone or fill in the general enquiry form.
Information and guidance on a wide range of infectious diseases may be found at the Health Protection Agency website. If you require medical assistance you are advised to see your GP, call NHS direct on 0845 46 47, or visit NHS 111.
We also investigate cases of illness caused by the consumption of infected food or water which are notified by London-Luton Airport. In addition, we will advise airlines and contract cleaning companies on port health matters. For more information on this service, please contact us.
Don’t risk Typhoid
Planning a holiday or Hajj to a developing country? Don’t forget your vaccination against Typhoid. Typhoid is a blood and intestinal infection with fever, weakness and loss of appetite. Initially, the infection causes constipation which is followed by diarrhoea. Symptoms can be mild lasting up to a week, or they can be severe resulting in a major illness lasting up to two months requiring hospitalisation.
Mike Lilley, Consultant in Communicable Disease at Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Health Protection Unit advises; “anyone travelling to developing countries, especially if they are going to spend much of their time in areas where water supply and sanitation are not up to UK standards, may be at risk of developing typhoid or hepatitis A. It is therefore sensible to take general precautions such as having the correct vaccinations, taking anti malarial drugs when recommended, and using insect repellents”.
He adds: “It is especially important to be vigilant about personal hygiene and cautious about drinking water or eating foods that may carry these harmful bacteria because water supplies may be contaminated with the bacteria which cause diarrhoea. Things like salads, ice in drinks, foods that are not cooked and fruits that cannot be peeled may all carry bacteria on them that can cause us problems (even brushing your teeth in contaminated water can pose a risk).”
Vaccination is recommended for anyone travelling to areas where typhoid is endemic such as south Asia, parts of south-east Asia, the Middle East, central and South America, and Africa. This is particularly important if you're travelling on local transport or staying with or visiting locals or places with poor sanitation and food hygiene.
The typhoid vaccination is available on the NHS from your GP or practice nurse. It is best to get it done before you travel so please contact your GP in plenty of time.
For more information on vaccinations and safety tips while you are away, please contact:
- your GP
- NHS - dial 111 - NHS 111 service
- National Travel Health Network and Centre www.nathnac.org.uk
Factsheets on Typhoid and paratyphoid are available to download below in English, Urdu and Bengali.
Monday - Friday
8.45am - 5.15pm
Luton Borough Council, Town Hall, George Street, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 2BQ
Tel: 01582 510330
Fax: 01582 546676