The incidence of acute gastroenteritis and self suspected food poisoning in general practice populations was compared with consultation rates in four group practices during a 3-month winter period and a 2-month autumn period. The average monthly consultation rate for acute gastroenteritis and self suspected food poisoning was 0.3% and 0.06% respectively. However, over the same period, on average, an estimated 7% of the practice population per month reported an acute gastroenteritis illness, and 0.7% suspected a food poisoning illness. Only about one in 26 people who suffer an acute episode of gastroenteritis consult their general practitioner (GP). In two practices, faecal samples were sought from all patient cases; the isolation rate for salmonellas was 2% (3/191) and for campylobacters it was 12% (23/191). In the other two practices following routine management, the isolation rate for salmonellas was 9% (6/64) and for campylobacters it was 2% (1/64). Isolation of faecal pathogens was not associated with patients' suspicion of food poisoning. A history of eating out in the week before onset was associated with a significantly increased yield of salmonellas and campylobacters.