Difficulty in linking specific foods or restaurants to food poisoning outbreaks makes winning lawsuits harder; document symptoms, record date/time of symptoms, keep a symptom tracker, take notes of what you eat.

Verification of Food Poisoning


Food poisoning causes illness from bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxins. It can also be a side effect of certain medications. It may take hours or days for the illness to develop after eating contaminated food.

This makes it difficult for medical professionals to link specific foods or restaurants with an outbreak. Without a smoking gun, it’s harder to win a food poisoning lawsuit.

Document Your Symptoms

Most food poisoning symptoms are similar to the flu, making it difficult for people to know when they need medical attention. However, if symptoms are severe or persistent and you are young, old, pregnant or have a weak immune system, it is best to get checked out by a doctor right away. The doctor will want to hear about your symptoms and where you’ve been eating; they may ask for a stool or blood sample to check for particular bacteria and parasites that can cause food poisoning.

If the foodborne illness is a bacteria, your doctor may give you medicine to fight the infection. If it’s a virus, treatment usually focuses on replacing fluids and easing the nausea and vomiting. Your doctor may also ask about your health history. The time it takes for food poisoning to start can vary, from as little as a few hours to up to 3 weeks after ingestion. They will also look at the foods you’ve been eating and preparing.

Record the Date and Time of Your Symptoms

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The first symptoms of food poisoning show up within a few hours of eating contaminated food. However, the symptom pattern and timing can vary depending on the germ that is making you sick.

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For example, Staphylococcus aureus can give you cramps and diarrhea in as little as 30 minutes after eating contaminated food. But the hepatitis A virus can lie in wait for 50 days before causing illness. By recording the date and time your symptoms first appear, you can help a medical expert trace them back to a specific meal.

In most cases, doctors diagnose food poisoning based on symptoms alone, including nausea and vomiting. Your doctor might also ask about your medical history and do a physical exam. They may order stool or blood tests to check for certain bacteria and toxins.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have developed a method that makes testing for food poisoning faster and more affordable. The method, which runs on a device smaller than a chocolate bar, sequences the DNA of bacteria.

Keep a Symptom Tracker


Sometimes, food poisoning symptoms are hard to identify. This is especially true if the person already has some type of health condition or immune system weakness, like diabetes, kidney disease or HIV/AIDS. Also, the timing of the onset of symptoms can vary. It can be as little as a few hours after eating the contaminated food or as long as weeks later.


The germs that cause food poisoning can get on the foods we eat by touching feces, vomit or other bodily fluids. This can happen in restaurants, cafeterias, picnics or at home. They can also come from the meats, eggs, dairy products and water we eat.


If you suspect you have food poisoning, it is a good idea to keep a tracker of your symptoms. This way you can easily share them with your doctor or health care provider. You can use a pen and paper or a symptom tracking app. Ideally, you should track your symptoms at the same time each day to help find patterns.


Take Notes of What You Eat

Most food poisoning symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, are short-lived and pass within 12 to 48 hours for healthy people. If you have a fever, chills or muscle aches, contact your doctor to see if you should get treated with antibiotics.

Food poisoning happens when you eat something that contains bacteria, a virus or parasites. You can pick up the germs by eating contaminated meat, seafood, produce or dairy products that are not cooked long enough to kill the pathogens. You are also at greater risk for food poisoning if you are pregnant or have a health condition such as diabetes, cancer or HIV that suppresses your immune system.

To help identify the source of your illness, take notes about everything you ate in the days before your symptoms began. This will help your doctor pinpoint the cause of your food poisoning. You should also check with friends and family members to see if they have similar symptoms.

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