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Food poisoning claims

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Your guide to making a claim for food poisoning compensation abroad

  • Overview

Holidays abroad are when we finally get to spend our time how we want, and more often than not, that means taking a break from cooking, choosing instead to indulge in local cuisine or overloading our plates at the buffet. While most establishments stick to food standards perfectly, some catering can end up leading to food poisoning, leaving you with more than a few bad holiday memories. No one wants to get ill abroad, let alone get food poisoning on holiday when you’re meant to be relaxing and enjoying yourself. Seeing the precious days of your holiday wasted in a hotel room being ill is a horrible experience and one you shouldn’t have to deal with.

Getting food poisoning abroad can be an upsetting and difficult experience. Not only are you looking at spending your holiday seriously ill, or even hospitalised, but you may find yourself facing additional costs and navigating an unfamiliar healthcare system. Depending on which type of bacteria you have come into contact with, you may also be looking at an extended illness that could continue once you return home, meaning missed work and additional doctor’s visits.

Holiday food poisoning is often caused by eating contaminated or undercooked food, or by drinking contaminated water. Because of the way hotels, resorts and cruise ships operate – offering you everything you could want or need in one place – illness can spread quickly within them. Illness caused by food contamination can be spread by poor hygiene from people carrying the illness, getting passed on through contact with surfaces such as door handles and railings. This can spread even faster if a member of staff has become ill, and faster still if they handle food or drink.

If you’ve dealt with food poisoning on holiday, our expert team can offer help and reassurance as you pursue your claim. We will guide you through every step of the claims process and ensure your claim is handled carefully and professionally by our experienced food poisoning solicitors. We will also do our best to provide you with all the help and support you may need for your claim to proceed smoothly.

Food poisoning types we deal with:


    Campylobacter causes severe diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and fever. It is found on raw or undercooked meat (particularly poultry), unpasteurised milk and untreated water. The illness can also be passed on by animals, pets and birds. Symptoms usually appear 2 to 5 days after eating contaminated food and usually last up to a week.

    E. coli

    E.coli causes severe stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is found in the digestive system of many animals and humans. Most cases of E. coli food poisoning occur after eating undercooked beef (particularly mince, burgers and meatballs) or drinking unpasteurised milk. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 8 days after eating contaminated food and usually last for a few days or weeks.


    Salmonella causes severe stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is found in raw or undercooked meat, raw eggs, milk, and other dairy products. Symptoms usually appear 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food and usually last around 4 - 7 days.


    Shigella causes severe diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, fever and often blood or mucus in the stool. It is found in any food that has been washed in contaminated water. Infected people who handle food can transmit the bacteria to people who later eat the food. Symptoms usually appear within 3 days after eating contaminated food and last for up to a week. 


    Dysentery is a disease which causes severe diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and high fever. It is passed on through faeces of people carrying the bacteria, who do not wash their hands after using the WC and then touch food, surfaces, or another person. In countries with poor sanitation, infected faeces may contaminate the water supply or food (particularly cold, uncooked food). Symptoms usually appear after 1 to 3 days and usually last up to a week.

    Other types include:

    • Amoebiasis
    • Botulism
    • Cholera
    • Gastroenteritis
    • Giardiasis & giardia lamblia
    • Listeria
    • Rats Weil’s disease
    • Typhoid & paratyphoid

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can I claim for food poisoning on holiday?

    If you had food poisoning on a package holiday, then you most likely can. But your claim must meet certain criteria in order if we’re to pursue it for you.

    If you’re reading this then you have most likely suffered from food poisoning while on holiday or upon your return to the UK.

    Your holiday will have been booked through a UK-based tour operator and will be an all-inclusive holiday. If you ate outside of the hotel or resort during your stay, this will more than likely mean that your claim cannot be pursued, as it isn’t clear that your hotel or holiday provider is definitely responsible for your illness.

    We will also ask several other questions about your holiday, illness, your hotel and any medical treatment you received in order to clarify if you have a reasonable claim for food poisoning. You can find out more in our 10 step claim process.

    Should I make a food poisoning claim?

    It is purely your decision whether or not you pursue a food poisoning claim. We can help inform you as to whether you have a potentially successful case and we can help you to pursue a claim if you wish. We will never force you to pursue a claim you don’t want to pursue. We also advise that you are not pressured into making a claim by friends or family unaffected by the illness you suffered while on holiday.

    If you fell ill and if you are still recovering, claiming for food poisoning on holiday could help with the financial difficulty you may be facing and the disappointment of your ruined holiday.

    You may be concerned about making a claim due to recent reports in the media suggesting some British holidaymakers are engaging in fraudulent claims, or that making such claims may increase the costs of future holidays as legal costs are passed onto the consumer. Your Legal Friend is a Law Society Accredited law firm and we do not support or associate with the minority of companies that engage in unscrupulous practices. We have a thorough vetting practice for all claims that ensure only genuine claims are taken on, and we believe that if you have genuinely suffered, you deserve to pursue your claim without feeling judged.

    You put your trust in your holiday provider and resort when you travel, and getting food poisoning due to their poor standards or incompetence is not your fault and you shouldn’t have to foot the bill. Especially when it is likely you’ll have been covered for this in the insurance paid for as part of your package deal. This insurance premium is often added to your package by holiday providers or tour operators. It is from this insurance that any associated expenses or reimbursements will be taken if your claim is successful.

    Are there criteria to make a food poisoning claim?

    In order to ensure that every food poisoning claim we take on is genuine and has the potential to be successful, we have certain criteria your claim should meet. We will check these details with you by asking some simple questions.

    • Were you taken sick with food poisoning on holiday within the last 3 years?
    • How long did you have food poisoning for?
    • Did you complain to the hotel or tour operator about your illness?
    • Did you notice anything, such as poor hygiene or badly prepared food, during your stay that may have caused your illness?
    • Did you require medical treatment for food poisoning?

    We may also ask some additional questions specific to your situation to help us build your case, but these are nothing to worry about and we will ensure you know why we are asking these questions.

    How do I make a claim for food poisoning?

    There are two main ways to approach making a food poisoning claim. Firstly, you can try to handle the claim yourself, but given that you’re reading our food poisoning FAQs, you may wish to discuss your claim with us and our specialist lawyers who can run the case for you.

    If you do decide to use us to make your claim, it all starts with a free initial telephone consultation. In this chat, we will be trying to understand what happened to you, why it happened, and how. As we are trying to find out quite a lot of detail, this phone call can be quite long, but it will give us the information we need to establish if you’ve been let down by your holiday provider.

    You’ll then begin the claims process, in which we’ll seek to thoroughly investigate and substantiate your claim, with the aim to prove that your holiday provider failed to meet the Package Travel Regulations 1992. You claim will be handled by our holiday illness team.

    We always ask if you wish to proceed with your claim, and if you do say yes, you can sign up to a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. This means that if you do not win your case, you pay nothing. If you win your case, you will be charged 25% of your damages, plus the cost of an ATE premium to ensure you against any unexpected costs and challenges during the course of the claim.

    How much compensation can I get for food poisoning on holiday?

    The amount of compensation you receive will depend upon the extent and severity of your food poisoning, and its effect upon your life. Our solicitors will also try to understand how this will affect your life in the future if your condition is on-going. This means that if your food poisoning is still making you ill after you’ve returned home and has forced you to take time off work, causing you loss of earnings, or has forced you to seek additional medical help, these costs may also be taken into consideration.

    Compensation looks to redress the balance of any loss you have suffered due to faults or errors of the tour operator. Your compensation may see you reimbursed for the cost of your ruined holiday and cover any on-going treatment. Because of the huge variation between claims, food poisoning settlement amounts also vary widely; however, we do have some average settlement figures to give you an indication of what you might receive.

    A mild case of food poisoning, that lasted several days, may see a settlement of between £700 and £3,000. A more serious case, that required hospitalisation, could see a settlement of up to £7,000. If your food poisoning were to have lasting effects or develops into a serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome, the food poisoning compensation amount could reach as much as £40,000.

    In order to get a more accurate idea of how much compensation you could receive for your holiday food poisoning claim, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us for a free telephone consultation.

    How long does a food poisoning claim take?

    Due to the unique circumstances surrounding every claim, it’s very difficult to give a definitive answer on how long it takes to settle a claim.  Often, food poisoning settlement timescales will depend on how quickly our clients provide us with essential information about their holiday and illness, how quickly we can get medical records and assessments, and whether the tour operators are willing to provide realistic offers to settle the claims. This can take anywhere from a couple of months to a few years, depending on the complexity of your case.

    We aim to settle your claim as quickly as possible and secure the maximum compensation for you.  This often means we have to do some hard negotiation with the defendants – which takes extra time. Our aim is to progress the claim as fast as possible while getting you the maximum settlement available.

    We realise that you’ll be keen to know about the progress of your claim so we will send you regular emails and texts to keep you up to date, and also to remind you if there is any information we’re waiting for from you.

    Who can claim for food poisoning abroad?

    Usually, the person affected will be the one to pursue the claim for food poisoning compensation, but in some circumstances, such as a whole family all falling ill on the same holiday, you may be able to pursue it on their behalf or as a group. In some more serious cases, a loved one may still be seriously affected by their illness or is trying to adapt to a long-term illness caused by it, which means you can pursue a case on their behalf.

    In some rare and unfortunate circumstances, your friend or loved one may have died due to complications caused by getting food poisoning from a holiday and you may wish to search for answers on their behalf – we can assist you with this.

    Whatever your circumstances, if you have become aware of the negligence of your holiday provider within the last 3 years, we can advise you. Contact us now for a free initial telephone consultation.

    Should I report my food poisoning to anyone?

    If you become ill on holiday, you should report your condition to your hotel and to your package holiday tour operator. You should do this during your stay or within 28 days of returning home, ensuring you document your complaint in some way. This may be helpful to your claims process later on.

    Currently, there is no travel ombudsman or centralised body to deal with complaints against travel agencies. Your tour operator may be a member of ABTA, the UK’s largest travel organisation, so it’s recommended that you also register a complaint with them too.

    ABTA can advise you if you have a valid complaint and suggest solutions to your problem, but won’t advise their members to offer compensation. They can, however, take you through a process called arbitration, which is an independent and legally binding judgement, where you may be awarded a payment, but this is limited to £1,500 per person.  If you decide to pursue compensation through this process, you will be required to pay a fee to your arbitrator regardless of whether you win or lose your case.

    If you would prefer to pursue your claim with our experienced food poisoning solicitors, we can advise you on your claim, but we won’t decide for you which of the above courses of action are best for your situation.

    Can you sue for food poisoning if you weren’t on holiday?

    We do not handle individual or small group food poisoning lawsuits within the UK. There are other law firms that may take on such a case for you in this instance, but the time and cost involved often do not justify the outcome or compensation amount. This is most often due to the difficulty in proving the restaurant or eatery is definitely, and provably, responsible for your illness. Suing for food poisoning as part of an all-inclusive or package holiday is usually more successful because you can prove you ate only at the hotel for the duration of your stay.

    However, if a large number of people wish to pursue a lawsuit for food poisoning and there is strong evidence, we may be able to advise you.

    Does my travel insurance cover food poisoning?

    It is recommended by the FCO that you take out travel insurance before going on any holiday to cover you for a range of potential emergency costs. An insurance claim on travel insurance you have bought is not the same as a claim for food poisoning compensation. Your travel insurance is designed to cover you for any medical costs while you are abroad, for example, if you required hospital care, whereas a compensation claim is a claim against the person or company responsible for your illness. Although this claim will go through the tour operator’s insurer, it does not affect your insurance.

    What should I do if I believe I have food poisoning after a holiday?

    If you believe you have food poisoning but are unsure, it is unlikely that you do. The symptoms of food poisoning are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea which can be accompanied by a fever, weakness, stomach cramps, loss of appetite and headaches.

    If you have these symptoms within 72 hours of your return from holiday or experienced them while you were away, you could be eligible to make a food poisoning compensation claim. In order to find out more you can chat to us by phone on a free initial consultation where we will establish if you have a claim and can advise you on the process should you then wish to proceed.

    What is food poisoning caused by?

    Food poisoning is caused by contaminated or undercooked food. It can also be caused by poor food storage practices which can lead to salad, cold meats and dairy becoming the perfect environment for food poisoning bacteria, such as salmonella. Other poor food hygiene practices include the incorrect use of hot plates and foods being left out on buffets for too long; both practices create the perfect temperatures for illness-causing bacteria to grow.

    However, there are many ways that you can get food poisoning on holiday, including from contaminated drinking water and surfaces touched by sick people such as door handles and railings. If staff members within a hotel or resort are ill themselves and continue to work, they can quickly spread the sickness around the hotel, causing an outbreak.

    If you find yourself with food poisoning on holiday, be aware of these danger areas and be sure to record them and report them as they may help you make a food poisoning compensation claim.              

    Accidents & Illnesses abroad - 10 simple steps to achieving your compensation

    For most people, a compensation claim isn’t an everyday occurrence so we thought it would be helpful to explain how we manage your claim and the steps that we both need to go through.

    Step 1 - Obtaining a full description of your accident or illness

    We need to understand as much as possible about your accident or illness – exactly how it happened or what caused you to be ill and why, the injuries you suffered, what happened immediately afterwards and how your life has been affected as a result.

    Step 2 - Obtaining your medical records

    We will ask your GP and hospital for your full medical records so that we can establish the extent of your injuries or illness, the treatment you received, and how long it will take you to recover.  If your treatment was carried out abroad, we can obtain and, if need be, translate those records.

    Step 3 - Contacting the company responsible for your accident or illness

    Once we have decided who is responsible for your accident or illness, we will inform them that you intend to claim compensation and send them the details you have provided.  We will let you know their response and, if they dispute the case, we will ask you to provide your comments on their response. 

    Step 4 - Arranging your medical assessment

    We will arrange for an independent clinician to evaluate the extent of your illness or injuries and whether they will affect your ability to work in the short or long term.  In holiday illness claims, it may sometimes be possible to obtain a “desktop” report that can be done based on your witness statement and any medical records so that you don’t have to go for a medical examination.

    Step 5 - Collating details of your financial loss

    In addition to compensation for your injuries or illness, you can claim for another other expenses you have incurred as a result, including lost earnings, expenses travelling to medical appointments, and the cost of care and help with everyday tasks.  

    Step 6 - Providing you with our valuation of your losses

    Once we have received all your medical reports, we can provide a valuation for your illness, injuries and associated losses.  We will send this to you along with your medical report. You then need to complete and sign the medical slip and schedule of losses and return them to us.

    Step 7 - Sending your valuation to the other party's insurer

    Once we have received your signed medical slip and schedule of losses, we send these to the defendant’s insurer and ask for their best offer to settle the case. Often the insurance company takes 4 – 6 weeks to get back to us.

    Step 8 - Negotiating the maximum settlement possible

    We work hard to achieve the maximum possible settlement for your case, which can take some time to negotiate. So we text and email you to keep you up to date with our progress.

    Step 9 - Issuing Court proceedings

    If the defendant’s insurer refuses to make a realistic offer, then we issue Court proceedings for a hearing.  It is very unlikely that you need to attend this hearing, so there’s no need to worry about it. 

    Step 10 - Sending you your compensation payment

    Once we receive your compensation payment from the defendant’s insurer, we let you know.  Most important of all, we send you your compensation payment straight away!

    How long does a claim take?

    Because the circumstances surrounding every claim and their effects are different, it’s very difficult to give a definitive answer on how long it takes to settle a claim.  Often it depends on how quickly our clients provide us with essential information, how quickly we can get medical records and assessments, and whether the insurance companies are willing to provide realistic offers to settle the claims.

    Whilst we aim to settle your claim as quickly as possible, we also want to ensure we secure the maximum compensation for you.  This often means we have to do some hard negotiation with the defendants – which takes extra time. Our aim is to balance progressing the claim as fast as possible with getting you the maximum settlement.

    We realise that you’ll be keen to know about the progress of your claim so we will send you regular emails and texts to keep you up to date, and also to remind you if there is any information we’re waiting for from you.