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You are here: Home > Environmental Health > Food safety > Infectious diseases and food borne illnesses > Chemical Food Borne Illness

Chemical Food Borne Illness

Chemical food poisoning is quite rare it, usually occurring through the negligence or ignorance of food handlers.

  • Chemicals such as detergents and sanitizers can affect foods if they are stored incorrectly or if equipment is incorrectly rinsed after cleaning.
  • Other cases of chemicals getting into food can occur, for example, if non-food grade oil is used to lubricate mixers or other equipment.
  • Chemicals can get into the food chain in the form of antibiotics, pesticides and other such chemicals used in the growth of food stuffs or animals treatments. These chemicals are controlled under regulations and are unlikely to gain entry into the food chain. Please see the FSA website for more information for the control and use of pesticides and veterinary medicines.
  • Some food additives for flavouring or preserving food can also be harmful to human health if not properly controlled, see the FSA website for more information on food additives.

Preventing chemical contamination at home:

  • Store cleaning chemicals and other substances in sealed containers, preferably in cupboards where there is no food.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals – follow the instructions on the containers.
  • If you grow your own produce for personal consumption, follow the instructions carefully on pesticides, weed killers and plant food supplements – some may not be suitable to use.


The symptoms of chemical food poisoning are greatly varied and hard to determine, often resulting in vomiting, stomach cramps and headaches. Often you can ‘taste’ or ‘smell’ a chemical taint on food, if suspicious you should stop eating the food and contact us.

If you feel you may be suffering from any form of chemical food poisoning you should seek medical advice from your GP, or contact NHS direct.





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