When you go out for a meal or buy food from a takeaway or supermarket, you expect a good and enjoyable experience. However, a substandard service or product can ruin it and even cause you to become ill from food poisoning.
Every business that sells food must take every reasonable measure to protect your health and safety. Unfortunately, lack of hygiene and improper storing, cooking and preparing of the food may cause it to become contaminated with harmful germs such as viruses and bacteria.
These germs can enter the stomach and intestines and cause mild to life-threatening symptoms. Food poisoning symptoms may appear half an hour to several weeks after eating contaminated food. These include diarrhoea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever and bloody stools.
While most foodborne illnesses are mild and resolve within a few days, even without treatment, others may require hospitalisation and cause long-term health problems such as kidney failure and irritable bowel syndrome.
If you or a loved one got food poisoning because of another party’s negligence, you might be able to claim food poisoning compensation. If you have a valid claim, your solicitor will offer you a no win no fee service, so there are no financial risks involved in pursuing compensation.
Can I claim compensation for food poisoning?
If you or a loved one got food poisoning from eating out or buying a ready-to-eat meal, you should contact a legal adviser as soon as possible. They will let you know whether you could claim food poisoning compensation for the pain and suffering you endured. Usually, this should be possible if:
- You have purchased food in a restaurant, hotel, café or another business
- They failed to follow the hygiene and sanitation standards to ensure the food you bought was safe to eat
- You have suffered food poisoning as a result
To make a food poisoning claim, you do not have to establish negligence. Under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, the law enforces strict liability on the business responsible for causing your illness. You only have to show that what they sold you was not safe and caused your sickness.
To prove that you suffered from food poisoning due to a negligent party, you should try to collect as much evidence as detailed in the section below. Your solicitor can also help you gather everything you need to build a strong claim.
To be able to claim, you must have suffered from food poisoning in the last three years. If you do not bring a claim within the time limits, your case becomes statute-barred, and you can no longer take legal action. There are some exceptions to the three-year time limit:
- A litigation friend can bring a child injury claim at any time before the child turns 18. Afterwards, the victim will have another three years to claim compensation by themselves.
- There is no time limit to make a food poisoning claim on behalf of an individual who lacks the mental capacity to conduct their own legal proceedings.
- If a loved one passed away due to a severe illness, you could claim within three years of their death or after you discovered the cause of their death.
- If you suffered food poisoning while working or on holiday abroad, the time limit to claim might depend on the laws of the country you were in.
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a food poisoning claim and answer any questions you may have.
What are the main causes of food poisoning?
Food poisoning is an illness that results from eating contaminated, poorly prepared or uncooked food. While most people will get better within a few days, it can be extremely severe for others, and in rare cases, it can even be fatal.
When a business takes all the necessary measures to protect the health and safety of customers, food poisoning should not happen. However, negligence, errors and poor hygiene could cause you an illness for which you could claim compensation.
Some of the most common reasons for a food poisoning claim include:
- The chef or kitchen staff do not wash their hands before cooking
- Dangerous chemicals contaminating the food
- Preparing the food or cooking in a dirty environment
- Food that was not refrigerated or covered
- Mixing raw meat with cooked meat or vegetables
- Using dirty kitchen tools or appliances
- Not cooking the food at the right temperature
- Not cooking the food for the right amount of time to kill harmful germs
- The food was coughed, sneezed or breathed on by an ill person
- Using ingredients past their expiration date
- Previously cooked food that was not sufficiently reheated
- Keeping cooked food warm for too long
Certain foods that are more likely to cause food poisoning than others include:
- Raw or rare meat
- Raw or undercooked eggs
- Shellfish and raw fish
- Unpasteurised milk
- Ready-to-eat foods such as sliced meats, pates and soft cheeses
There are over 250 types of foodborne illnesses, the overwhelming majority of which are caused by the following organisms:
- Bacteria can get into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cause symptoms such as nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and cramping. The most common forms of foodborne bacteria include:
- Campylobacter causes around 630,000 illnesses per year in the UK, of which 300,000 are estimated to be acquired from contaminated food. Most infections are due to poultry, but the bacteria can also be found in other meat or unpasteurised milk.
- E. coli can be found in meat, vegetables and fruits. It can cause severe stomach cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea and may pose life-threatening problems in some patients. Hand and ingredients washing is essential to prevent contamination.
- Salmonella contamination can also be prevented by frequent washing of hands and ingredients. It can be found in milk, poultry, eggs, meat and seafood. It is one of the top causes of food poisoning fatalities in the UK, with 57 deaths recorded in both 2017 and 2018.
- Viruses – food poisoning caused by viruses can also pass from person to person through handshakes or if you prepare food or drinks with contaminated hands. The most common foodborne viruses are:
- Norovirus can be found in fresh fruits, shellfish and leafy greens. It causes inflammation in the stomach and intestines and is highly contagious.
- Hepatitis A can be found in raw, ready-to-eat produce and contaminated water. It causes a highly contagious acute inflammation of the liver with symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite and feeling generally tired and unwell.
- Parasites may range from microscopic to parasitic worms visible to the naked eye. They can be spread by contaminated food or drinks or coming into contact with a contaminated person. The most common foodborne parasites are:
- Cryptosporidium parvum is a waterborne infection that causes watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting. It can sometimes be fatal in people with weakened immune systems.
- Giardia duodenalis is found in raw, ready-to-eat produce and contaminated water and can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, dehydration and cramps. It is one of the most common parasites in the UK to cause diarrhoeal illness.
If another person was responsible for your foodborne illness, you might be entitled to compensation. To find out if you have a valid food poisoning claim, enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
Food poisoning symptoms can range from mild to very severe or life-threatening. They may differ depending on the germs you ingested and include:
- Feeling sick or nausea
- Upset stomach and stomach cramps
- A high fever of 38C or above
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Feeling generally unwell, such as tired or weak
- Loss of appetite
- Headache and body aches
Usually, the symptoms appear within a day or two of eating the contaminated food but can sometimes start after half an hour or even eight weeks later, depending on the type of food poisoning.
Most often, food poisoning is not a severe illness and should resolve within a few days, even without treatment. However, you should visit your GP or the hospital if you experience symptoms such as:
- Bloody diarrhoea or vomit
- A very high fever
- Frequent vomiting that prevents you from keeping down food or liquids
- Signs of dehydration such as little or no urination, a very dry mouth and throat, feeling dizzy when standing up, rapid heartbeat or confusion
- Diarrhoea lasting more than three days
- Extreme pain or severe abdominal cramps
- Neurological symptoms that may include muscle weakness, tingling and blurry vision
Some people may need hospitalisation, and some foodborne infections may cause long-term health problems or even death. Food poisoning can lead to:
- Kidney failure
- Brain and nerve damage
- Chronic arthritis
- Miscarriage or stillbirth
- Long-term neurological damage and delayed development in infants
The treatment for food poisoning depends on the severity of the illness and the cause of the poisoning. Potential treatments include:
- Staying hydrated – sports drinks high in electrolytes, fruit juice, coconut water and decaffeinated herbal teas can restore carbohydrates, help with fatigue and calm an upset stomach.
- Over-the-counter medication to manage diarrhoea and nausea
- Prescription medication, such as antibiotic treatment, especially for people who are older, pregnant or immunocompromised
- Receiving an antitoxin, for example, if you have a case of C. botulinum, which is a medical emergency
- Hydration with intravenous fluids
- Plenty of rest
If another party’s negligence caused you an illness, you might be entitled to seek food poisoning compensation. To find out if you have a valid claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.
How do I prove I had food poisoning?
After you eat or drink something contaminated by bacteria or parasites, you might get food poisoning. When this happens, you may suffer mild to severe symptoms that might last from a few days to several weeks. In some cases, food poisoning can be fatal.
If your illness was due to the negligence of a restaurant, hotel or another business, you might want to make a food poisoning claim. Proving how and where you were made ill might be difficult in certain circumstances, but there are some steps you could take to help your claim:
- Seek immediate medical assistance, as your medical records are essential to establish the severity of your illness and any treatments you received.
- If relevant, take photos to show the hygiene standards of the location where you ate.
- Report your sickness to the Food Standards Agency.
- Notify the local Environmental Health Department.
- If your food poisoning was due to pre-packed food, keep it in the original packaging for sampling.
- Keep a food diary of everything you ate two days before your illness.
- Keep all relevant receipts from grocery shops, restaurants and other places where you bought food.
- Inform the tour operator of your illness if you got food poisoning on holiday.
- Get the contact details of any other tourists that had food poisoning.
- Write a list of witnesses that were with you when you ate.
Even if you have little to no evidence, your solicitor could still help you gather everything you need to make a successful food poisoning claim. They might also arrange a free consultation with an independent doctor who will assess the full extent of your symptoms and any long-term effects of your illness.
Once you have all the necessary proof, your solicitor will contact the defendant and inform them of your allegations of negligence. If they admit responsibility, your solicitor will begin negotiating your food poisoning compensation. Otherwise, your solicitor will issue court proceedings.
Even so, the chances of your case going to court are very slim. More than 95% of all personal injury claims settle without a trial. If you must argue your case before a judge, your solicitor will offer all the support and advice you need, and they might even be able to represent you.
Can I claim for food poisoning on holiday?
If you suffered food poisoning on holiday abroad, you might still be able to get compensation. Every hotel, restaurant, bar or cruise ship where you eat has a duty to take all necessary steps to protect your health and safety.
If you got ill while on a package holiday or cruise ship booked through a UK-based operator, it might be easier to claim food poisoning compensation. According to the Package Travel Regulations, the company that booked your meal is responsible for the service you received and liable for your food poisoning.
In this case, your claim would be against the tour operator, under UK law. The time limit to start a food poisoning on holiday claim is three years after the incident or becoming aware of an illness.
If you have travelled independently, you might still be able to claim against the negligent restaurant or business. To make a successful claim, you must establish beyond a reasonable doubt where you contracted food poisoning.
Seeking legal advice straight away is essential, as the laws for claiming might differ from country to country. For example, the time limit to claim in Spain is only one year after an incident. According to the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984, both the UK and the foreign country’s time limits may apply when bringing a claim.
How much compensation is a food poisoning claim worth?
Each food poisoning claim is unique, so it is difficult to state the exact compensation award you might be entitled to receive. After gathering all the relevant information about your circumstances, your solicitor will be able to give you an accurate estimate of your food poisoning compensation prospects, according to:
- The type and severity of your illness
- The financial losses you incurred as a result
- How the food poisoning has affected your daily life
In every personal injury claim, you can ask for compensation for two types of damages:
General damages for the pain and suffering caused by the illness itself, including:
- The physical distress and suffering you endured
- Any related psychological injuries and emotional distress
- Decrease in the enjoyment of life
- Inability to pursue a hobby or social event
- Physical impairment and embarrassment
Special damages, also known as economic damages, cover any tangible losses you incurred due to the food poisoning, such as:
- Medical costs and expenses such as medication, hospital stay and doctor visits
- Lost wages during the time you took time off work to recover
- Travel costs to medical appointments
- The cost of any activities or reservations you paid but were unable to attend if you suffered from food poisoning on holiday
- Costs of care and assistance during recovery
- Any other related financial expenses
Special damages are calculated by adding up all the financial expenses and losses you incurred. It is more difficult to calculate a suitable compensation for general damages, as they cover subjective pain and suffering.
In the UK, the Ministry of Justice has an official body called the Judicial College, which offers guidelines for general damages in personal injury claims. According to them, you could receive:
- £910 to £3,950 for food poisoning that causes varying amounts of disabling pain, cramps and diarrhoea lasting from several days to weeks
- £3,950 to £9,540 for food poisoning leading to significant discomfort for weeks
- £9,540 to £19,200 for severe yet short-lived food poisoning
- £38,430 to £52,500 for severe toxicosis that may cause severe pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and irritable bowel syndrome, affecting the person’s ability to work and enjoy daily activities
- £4,670 for mental anguish such as fear of death or reduced life expectancy
- £8,180 to £23,150 for moderate PTSD, where any long-lasting symptoms are not disabling
- £3,950 to £8,180 for less severe PTSD with complete recovery within a year or two
- £1,540 to £5,860 for general psychiatric damage that affects sleep and daily activities
Can I make a food poisoning compensation claim on behalf of my child?
Yes, if your child suffered food poisoning due to somebody else’s negligence, you could claim compensation on their behalf. Under the Court of Protection Rules 2017, children under 18 are not considered to have the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings, so they need a litigation friend to represent them in a food poisoning claim.
To become a litigation friend for your child, you must fill in and serve a certificate of suitability with the court, supported by evidence that:
- You can make decisions about the claim fairly and competently
- You have no conflict of interest with the victim
The role of litigation friend is a long-time commitment which ends when the child turns 18, once the claim settles, or if you have a valid reason to apply for a replacement. Your responsibilities as a litigation friend include:
- Meet with your solicitor and take their advice
- Take decisions about the claim and give directions to your solicitor
- Pay any fees requested by the court
- Keep updated on the proceedings and deal with correspondence
- Carefully consider any settlement offers you might receive
- Make sure that your child attends all medical appointments
If your child became ill because of someone else’s negligence, you could start a food poisoning claim at any time before they are 18, regardless of when the incident took place. If you did not claim food poisoning compensation for your child, they have three years to start a claim once they turn 18.
If they suffered food poisoning on holiday abroad, the time limit to start a claim might depend on the foreign country’s laws. To make sure you do not lose your chance for compensation, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
In a child injury claim, you can ask for compensation for their physical and psychological pain and suffering as well as for any financial losses you incurred while taking care of them.
While you can claim on behalf of a minor, you cannot access their compensation award. Instead, the amount will be transferred into a court bank account, where it will gain interest until their 18th birthday. At this point, they will receive their food poisoning compensation plus any interest by cheque.
Your solicitor can help you petition the court to release some of the money early if this will benefit the child. The court usually approves early release to cover medical or educational costs that the family cannot otherwise afford to pay.
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410. They can let you know how you can claim food poisoning compensation for your child and answer any questions you may have.
Can food poisoning claims be made using no win no fee?
Whether you suffered food poisoning on holiday or in the UK, you might want compensation for your pain, suffering, and any related financial losses. However, you might have reservations about spending money for claiming without having the certainty you will receive food poisoning compensation.
Fortunately, you can pursue a claim without taking any financial risks. If your solicitor thinks that your food poisoning claim is valid and has a fair chance of success, they will offer you a no win no fee service. This ensures you still have access to justice, regardless of your financial situation.
In a no win no fee claim, you do not have to pay any upfront fees to your solicitor. They only get a success fee deducted from your compensation award once you win the case.
Seeing as the outcome of your claim also affects them, you can have the certainty your case is valid, and your solicitor will work hard to win the maximum food poisoning compensation you are entitled to.
After the Event (ATE) insurance is a standard part of any no win no fee claim. Your solicitor will purchase it on your behalf, and it covers the legal costs and expenses involved in litigation and disbursements such as:
- The defendant’s solicitor fees
- The cost of a medical examination or report
- The cost of expert witnesses
- The barrister’s fee, if the case goes to court
- Court and counsel’s fees
Without ATE insurance, you would have to cover all these expenses if you lost your food poisoning claim. Furthermore, ATE policies are self-insuring, meaning you only have to pay the premium if you win compensation.
The other side will cover your legal costs if you win the case. You will only have to pay the ATE insurance and a success fee to your solicitor. The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your compensation for general damages and past economic losses. Your solicitor will explain it to you in detail before taking on your case, so everything is upfront and transparent.