If you invest in a nice holiday or eat out, the last thing you expect is to suffer from food poisoning, follow our guide on what to do if you become a victim of this unfortunate bug....

It was reported that 300 passengers aboard the P&O Cruise ship Oriana in December 2012 suffered from a severe case of food poisoning. For these unfortunate holidaymakers, their £1,400 dream cruise turned into a nightmare.

Horror stories at the time were reported in the UK press detailing how sections of the ship had been closed off, leading to passengers vomiting in theatres, corridors and restaurants

P&O’s insurers were then forced to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation claims, not just to the people who got sick, but to others whose holidays were ruined by the “plague”.

However, the Oriana was just one of a number of high-profile cases of food poisoning that have made the papers in recent years. It was reported in 2009; more than 500 diners were struck down by the same bug, (the Noro virus) at Heston Blumenthal’s world-famous Fat Duck restaurant.

This illustrates that not even the best restaurant in the world (as it was widely considered at the time) can always prevent the scourge of food poisoning.

A report conducted by the Health Protection Agency blamed the outbreak on contaminated shellfish and "severe weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant". In their response the Fat Duck disputed the second part, and Heston wrote personally to all the diners that were affected and invited them back for dinner at his expense.

However, judging by the comments in Heston’s letter of apology, he clearly understood that not all diners were going to be satisfied with a free dinner. At the end of his letter, he stated: “If this is not appropriate to you personally, please contact us and we will address each individual situation with our insurers.”

Even though food poisoning is common it can be very serious and is considered by the legal system to be preventable. Shockingly, compensation claims for food poisoning are rare and this can be due to a number of factors. For example, the difficulty in proving the cause of the sickness, or it could simply boil down to people not being aware that they can make a claim, how they can claim and how much they are likely to get.

There are however, guidelines on compensation payable for food poisoning. They start from £500 to £2,000 for milder symptoms, such as cramps and diarrhoea. This figure can increase by up to £30,000 or even more if real and or permanent disability is suffered.

Additionally, if you are forced to take time off work as a result of food poisoning you are entitled to receive compensation for loss of earnings.

In order for you to win your claim, you have to be able to prove where the contaminated food came from. The most effective way to do that is to show that others have suffered the same condition after eating the same food.

You may bring a food poisoning compensation claim against a shop, restaurant, and caterer… even a friend who unintentionally poisons you at a dinner party. Even though the latter will probably be covered by home insurance, it could damage the friendship.

When you get sick, make a list of everything you have eaten in the previous 48 hours. Make sure you include everything, because it’s important to be able to identify what the cause was. Then contact your GP straight away, they will ask you to provide a stool sample. This will be able to show if food poisoning is the cause.

As well as this, it’s important that you contact your environmental health department and tell them where you think you got the food poisoning. They should do a check of the premises.

Be sure to get in touch with everyone else you know who ate at the same place, and find out if anyone else had similar symptoms. Even if their symptoms turn out to be too mild to worry about, it will still support your case.

Write to the place where you ate the food in question and inform them that you are making a claim. In more serious cases, it may be necessary to trace other customers.

In some instances restaurants may be helpful and apologetic; in that case it may not be necessary to go to court to get compensation. However, more often you would be well advised to seek legal advice beforehand. Our lawyers could take on your case on a no-win-no-fee basis.

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