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Foodborne illness (Food poisoning)

Good food hygiene and safety practices are an important means to reduce the spread of dangerous microbes.
Cartoon image of plate and cutlery with microbes
Links to activities: spot the mistake discussion sheet, food sort, and how clean is your kitchen.

Foodborne illnesses are “illnesses usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water”, according to the World Health Organization. They affect about 23 million people worldwide each year.

In the UK, there are over 500,000 cases of foodborne illness from identified microbes a year. Most cases of foodborne illness in the UK are caused by contaminated poultry, fruit and vegetables, and seafood.

Table showing the top foodborne illnesses in the UK in 2009 (Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens, norovirus, and salmonella), common sources that causes these illnesses, and the approximate number of cases and GP visits relating to these.

The symptoms of foodborne illness usually start within a few days of eating the food that caused the infection. They are usually better within a week and can include stomach pains, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, general fatigue/ache/chills and fever. Not everyone will experience these symptoms, but they can usually be treated at home.

Click here to read through NHS advice on managing these symptoms and when to seek help from a healthcare professional.

Teaching and reinforcing key food and hand hygiene behaviours from a young age will help to reduce preventable cases of foodborne illness.

Children and young people initially learn food hygiene rules at home from their parents, and often have a role to play in shopping, transportation of food items, storage, food preparation, reheating foods, and helping to cook for family and friends.

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