We have all just enjoyed the long Easter weekend, eating out at lots of restaurants and takeaways with our friends and family. Enjoying the fact that we don’t have to prepare the meals or clean up after ourselves because we know that we have paid for a service where we expect the food to be prepared in a clean and hygienic environment and cooked to an acceptable standard. We have nothing to worry about….or do we?
Food poisoning is a very common illness and affects many people in the UK. According to the research undertaken by the Food Standards Agency, over 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year are from known pathogens, this figure would more than double if it included food poisoning cases from unknown pathogens.
If food is undercooked, there are poor hygiene practices or the food is not properly stored after it is cooked, bacteria can rapidly multiple so that the food becomes unsafe to eat. There are a number of food related regulations for food producers to follow in order to reduce the risk of food becoming contaminated.
The symptoms of food poisoning usually begin within one to two days after eating contaminated food, although they may start at any point between a few hours and several weeks later. The symptoms, which include diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps and lack of energy can last a couple of days and many people go on to make a full recovery within that time. However, more vulnerable people such as young children, the elderly or people with another medical condition are more at risk and may experience longer and more severe symptoms.
Not only should the physical symptoms be considered, but also the knock on effect that food poisoning can have on an individual. It can ruin holidays, weddings, birthdays and other memorable events. If you cannot work as a result of the symptoms, then you may lose earnings.
So, if you suspect that you have eaten contaminated food from a restaurant, food outlet, shop etc and become ill as a result, what can be done about it? If there is evidence to prove that the food that was eaten was not safe, it made you ill and the contaminated food caused the food poisoning, then action can be taken to recover compensation against the responsible party. Keep in mind the following:-
- If it is obvious at the time of eating at the restaurant, food outlet, shop etc. that the food was undercooked or gone off, then bring it to the manager’s attention and follow it up with a written complaint. However, in the majority of cases a person will not be aware that they have until they start to experience the symptoms
- You need to prove the source of the contaminated food. Had any other customers suffered the same condition after eating from the same place or the same food? Obtain their details; this will help to support your case.
- Make a list of everything eaten within the previous 48 hours
- Contact your GP – they may need a stool sample to show the type of bacteria in the gut.
- Contact your environmental health department and tell them where you think you got the food poisoning. They should do a spot check of the premises.
- Keep all relevant receipts from the restaurant, supermarket or where the food was purchased.
- If you still have the contaminated food, keep it as evidence, but ensure it is not contaminated with anything else.