Food poisoning on holiday

There have been a number of cases in the press recently relating to a number of  people suffering with food poisoning on holiday.  There has been a large number cases in Mexico where an outbreak of Cylospora stomach bug has hit the Riviera Maya area.  The illness is thought to be linked to tainted food supplied to hotel with victims as young as 12.

Also, another case where a widow has taken legal action against Thomas Cook after her husband died on holiday in Cuba after suffering with gastroenteritis.

Main causes of food poisoning on holiday

One of the most common causes of food poisoning whilst abroad is salmonella poisoning.  You usually get salmonella by eating contaminated food.  Salmonella bacteria live in the gut of many farm animals and can affect meat, eggs, poultry and milk.  Other foods like green vegetables, fruit and shellfish can become contaminated through contact with manure in the soil or sewage in the water.  Contamination is also possible if raw and cooked foods are stored together.

Other common causes of food poisoning for travelers that we see include the Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Campylobacter, Shigella and Clostridium botulinum bacteria, all of which exhibit symptoms associated with Salmonella food poisoning.

What should you do if you contract food poisoning on holiday?

If you are on a package holiday the holiday provider owes a duty of care in respect of the food provided under the terms of the holiday contract. Commonly encountered hurdles to successfully bringing a claim are proving that your illness was as a direct result of eating contaminated food, rather than by some other cause such as viral infection and providing that the contaminated food was supplied as part of the package e.g from eating food at your hotel or as part of an excursion arranged by your travel package provider.

It is important to establish the exact nature of the illness and it is important to see medical attention as soon as possible.

Tour operators have a duty to ensure that the hotels that provide them with services are compliant with international food safety standards and general hygiene procedures. If you have suffered illness through the negligence of the hotel and their failure to observe those standards, you may be entitled to claim.

If you have not booked your holiday through a tour operator and booked separate elements of your holiday from different providers, you may still be able to pursue a claim against the hotel.

Time limits apply to holiday illness compensation claims, and those time limits vary from country to country. We would therefore advise you to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Evidence of other holiday makers who also became ill as a result of eating the same food can be very helpful as can a food diary demonstrating what you ate in the days surrounding your illness and where you ate. If possible, take a sample of the food you think caused your illness and video footage or photographs showing any poor food hygiene practices in the hotel and report your illness to the hotel and tour operator, and ask for written confirmation of your complaint.

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