Food Poisoning – How to avoid it

In April 2014 a Chinese Takeaway in Leicestershire was fined £4,500 for failing to clean up its “revolting” kitchen. The owner did not clean up the kitchen after previous warnings. He stated, “No-one complained of food poisoning from my shop, so I overlooked it.”

Every year, there are around 1 million cases of food poisoning, according to the Food Standards Agency. In most cases, food-borne illnesses are short, violent and nasty, leaving the victim weak and unwell for around a week.  However, in some cases it can be very serious.  Food poisoning contributes to around 20,000 hospital admissions and 500 deaths per year in the UK.

Of course, food poisoning is not confined to situations where people eat out in cafes or restaurants. It can also occur as a result of food prepared in the home.  To avoid the unpleasantness of a food-borne illness developing from your home-cooked supper always remember:

• Wash your hands before handling food, each time you handle raw meat, fish, poultry or eggs, and after using the toilet. Use hot, soapy water.
• Use separate chopping boards for meat and vegetable preparation (it is a good idea to have different colours for each board so you remember which board is intended for which task).
• Keep raw meat away from ‘ready to eat’ foods. Food poisoning often occurs when raw chicken is placed on a refrigerator shelf above a pre-prepared pudding or salad, resulting in the juices from the chicken dripping onto the prepared food, thereby contaminating it with bacteria. Because the contaminated, pre-prepared food is not heated / cooked before serving, the bacteria are not killed off and food poisoning can result.
• Keep your fridge temperature below 5°C.
• Cook food, especially meat and leftovers, properly, and until piping hot.
• Do not risk eating food, especially animal products (seafood, eggs, meat and dairy) after the labelled ‘used by date’.

Whilst you are in control of hygiene standards in your own home, how can you protect yourself from obtaining a nasty bout of food poisoning when you are eating out? Clearly it is not practical to inspect the kitchen yourself!

The best thing you can do is check the restaurant’s Food Hygiene Rating provided by the Food Standards Agency. Simply type in the name of the establishment you plan to visit and it will return a rating from 0 to 5, based on how closely the business is meeting the requirements of food hygiene law.

You can also read reviews of the restaurant or cafe you plan to dine in before you eat there.  In today’s online world, a case of food poisoning often reaches cyber-space in the form of reviews on sites such as

Here are some other steps you can take to protect yourself:

Pay Attention to the Cleanliness of the Bathrooms

Good restaurants and cafes take the cleanliness of their bathroom facilities very seriously.  If the rubbish receptacle in the bathroom is full and it looks like it has not had a decent clean in a while you might wonder how clean the kitchen is.

Avoid Buffets

Think about it, the food at a buffet is very vulnerable to inconsistent temperatures, and some restaurants are quite happy to let food sit out for hours without checking it.  Also, a lot of people touch the food and utensils with their unwashed hands.  If you do eat at a buffet, choose an early sitting.

Smell your food

If you detect a funny or unpleasant odour, inform your waiting staff immediately.  The food should smell fresh.

Speak up

In England we’re notorious for complaining vehemently to one and other about the quality of food in a restaurant, but when the waiting staff ask, “how was your meal?” we say, “fine, thank you”, then carry on grumbling to each other.  However, if your food is undercooked or lukewarm, send it back for your health’s sake.

Eating in an establishment that has one of these shortcomings does not necessarily mean you will contract food poisoning, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Even a mild case of food poisoning can be extremely unpleasant.  If you have contracted it and believe it was someone else’s fault view our dedicated page, or contact us today to discuss your rights to compensation.