Stomach bug or food poisoning? This photo demonstrates is of a spoonful of bacteria, asking the question 'Did food bacteria cause your illness?'

So, picture the scene. Yesterday evening, you went out for a curry, had a few beers and got home late. In the morning, you feel nauseous, headachey, and want to stay within two feet of the toilet. In these circumstances, we telll work that we have a stomach bug or food poisoning, crawl back into bed and wait for it to pass. But is this really the case? It’s sometimes hard to know. Let’s figure it out.

Food Poisoning

You can contract food poisoning from a surprising variety of sources. The most likely source is, surprisingly, green, leafy vegetables or legumes like bean sprouts. Natural and organic, after all, does not necessarily mean clean and healthy.

Rice, too, can be dangerous if left warm for extended periods. Additionally, of course, chicken and poultry are other hotbeds of potential sickness, particularly when improperly handled. Campylobacter and Salmonella are both common forms of bacteria in undercooked and raw meat. They often spread through cross-contamination and can cause bad food poisoning.

Symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Stomach Cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhoea

In most cases, the symptoms will appear between a few hours and 2 days after infection.

Viral infections

Norovirus is a very easily transmitted disease that can produce some very unpleasant symptoms. It can be a real issue for hotels and restaurants. Where there are lots of people using the same areas, it spreads quite easily through contact with contaminated surfaces. If you have Norovirus, the best thing you can do is keep away from other people and certainly do not work in a kitchen or handle food.

Symptoms of Norovirus can include:

  • Sudden, uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Aching limbs
  • Headaches

It will usually take between 24 and 48 hours to manifest after infection. Whichever it is, stomach bug or food poisoning, rest, keep hydrated and stay away from others, just to make sure.

Overindulgence

In a lot of cases, the ‘food poisoning’ that we call into work about can be a result of too much food and alcohol. Spicy food can cause your stomach to produce excess acid, leading to heartburn and indigestion. Alcohol causes nausea and headaches (which I don’t think is a very well-kept secret). The late night can induce fatigue and aching limbs.

Furthermore, the restaurant you ate in will probably have food hygiene management in place because this is a legal requirement. The chef and anyone who handles food will likely have received food hygiene training and should be following strict storage and preparation guidelines. So, it could be that you just ate a little too much.

However, if your symptoms persist and you feel certain that you have contracted food poisoning from a food outlet because of poor hygiene, then you should report it to your local authority. Oh, and stay in bed!