Safety Training

Shopping Bag 0


Unwitting Food Poisoning

8 September 2023

Unwitting food poisoning is the result of people being unaware of basic food safety. It is usually brought on by implementing unsafe practices, taking chances and common misconceptions. Examples of common misconceptions are washing raw chicken before cooking or smelling food to make sure it’s not gone off.


What is Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is any disease of an infectious or toxic nature caused by the consumption of food or water. This includes all food and waterborne illness regardless of symptoms. They usually appear within 1 to 72 hours after eating contaminated or poisonous food. You can read some additional information about food poisoning in our blog entry Food Poisoning from 10th February 2023.

Most cases of food poisoning are the result of people not working properly in the kitchen. Another often cause is not paying proper attention to the delivery and storage of food. This is the case when we talk about food handling at home and in a food business.

By nature most food poisoning is unwitting food poisoning. However, it is most certainly always preventable.  This is why training and education are important. To ensure you know how to handle food safely we recommend completing one of eLearn Safety online Food Safety courses. The Food Safety (HACCP) Level 1 is a good starting point.


Causes of Food Poisoning

There are many causes of food poisoning, all of which are avoidable. The most common causes are:

  • Contamination of food by bacteria and viruses. This is most often by not washing hands frequently or properly.
  • Not heating food sufficiently to kill bacteria.
  • Holding food: keeping it not hot enough (above 63°C) or for too long a period. This will allow bacteria to grow.
  • Not keeping food cold in the refrigerator, allowing bacteria to grow in a warm environment.
  • Contaminating food, which will not be cooked, with bacteria. This is why it is important to keep cooked and raw food separate.
  • People carrying bacteria and in turn contaminating the food. This may be in the form of an infected boil or cut. Some people can carry dangerous bacteria without sign of being ill.
  • Eating poisonous fish.
  • Chemicals that may be present in food such as insecticides, excessive additives and fungicides.
  • Metals in food such as lead, copper and mercury.
  • Eating poisonous plants such as nightshade, or mushrooms such as toadstools.


How Does Unwitting Food Poisoning Occur

As Matthew Gilmour, a Research Scientist and Director of the Food Safety Research Network at Quadram Institute in a report published on RTE (originally published by The Conversation) points out – small routine things, such as ‘sniff test’ might facilitate unwitting food poisoning. We all usually do it, as an unconscious reaction, in a hope to detect any issues with the stored food. However, most food poisoning microbes have no smell. In addition, microbes like Listeria and Salmonella are going to be near impossible to pick up with the sniff test.

As Dr. Gilmour points out “energies are best spent on storing [food] at the right temperature and cooking them for the right amount of time, rather than trusting […] nose to sniff out a pathogen”.


Online Food Safety Training

Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email