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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 June 2006, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Health risk from bad food hygiene
Bacteria causes thousands of cases of food poisoning every year
Britons are putting themselves and their families at risk of food poisoning because of bad habits in the kitchen, a survey suggests.

Nearly half of the 1,000 adults questioned did not know to cook burgers and sausages until no pink remained.

The Food and Drink Federation also found that many people fail to replace the kitchen sponge - a breeding ground for germs - on a regular basis.

More than 79,000 cases of food poisoning were reported last year.

The Health Protection Agency who collect the data said many cases go unreported.

They estimate that infectious disease costs the NHS 6 billion per year and accounts for 35% of all family doctor consultations.

The survey, carried out for National Food Safety Week, found that 12% of people only change or disinfect their kitchen sponge once a month and 6% change it even less often.

And a third of people admit to eating food that is past its use-by date.

Four out of 10 respondents said they never removed jewellery before preparing food and of those with pets, 14% said they washed their pets bowls with their own washing-up - risking cross contamination.

"Too many people are unwittingly putting themselves at risk of a nasty dose of food poisoning by using a dirty sponge to clean surfaces or mixing raw meats and ready to eat foods"
Melanie Leech, Food and Drink Federation

Food storage was also found to be a big area of confusion.

Nearly half did not know they needed to keep their fridge at 0C to 5C to store food safely.

And 16% store raw meat on the top shelf of the fridge and a further 8% would store it anywhere - risking the chance that juices could drip onto ready-to-eat foods below.

Around one in six admit to not always using separate chopping boards or only rinsing them in between chopping up raw meat and vegetables.

The Food and Drink Federation are encouraging people to be aware of the four Cs - cleanliness, cooking, chilling, and cross-contamination.

Melanie Leech, FDF Director General said: "Too many people are unwittingly putting themselves at risk of a nasty dose of food poisoning by using a dirty sponge to clean surfaces or mixing raw meats and ready-to-eat foods."


Prof Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, added: "The bad news is that 79,283 cases of food poisoning is the tip of a very unpleasant iceberg - many suffer in silence and are too embarrassed to tell.

"The good news is that the four Cs prevent them. A small price to pay for freedom from diarrhoea and vomiting."

The Health Protection Agency has published 12 tips to help people prepare food more safely which includes advice on precautions to take when barbecuing food.

Professor Peter Borriello, Director of the HPA's Centre for Infections at Colindale, said: "Good food is one of life's great pleasures.

"However, food-poisoning can be one of our worst memories.

"If everyone washed their hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, before and after handling food and before sitting down to eat, we would see massive reductions in a range of unpleasant infections including those caused by campylobacter, salmonella and Norovirus."

"Apart from immunising their children against disease, thorough hand-washing at appropriate times and the safe storage, preparation and cooking of food are the single most important things that people can do to protect themselves and others from infection."

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