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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 02:53 GMT
Food hygiene clampdown call
Supermarket
There is concern over hygiene standards in supermarkets
The public does not trust abattoirs, shops and caterers to practise decent food hygiene, a survey finds.

People want to see far more stringent checks throughout the food-processing chain to improve standards.

More than two-thirds said premises where food is produced or sold should be licenced by the local authority.

A Consumers Association survey of just under 1,000 people found 49% worried about hygiene standards in food processing, with 44% concerned about standards in abattoirs.

They had least concern about food hygiene standards in the home, with just 18% identifying it as a potential trouble spot.

Sources

Despite the fact that the bacteria which cause food poisoning can develop at any part of the food chain, people are most concerned about those parts of the food chain they have no control over.

Forty per cent were concerned about caterers such as restaurants or canteens, and 39% were worried about retail outlets.


We want more information right across the board

Emma Copeland
Health Which?

Sixty-eight per cent said all premises should be licensed by the local authority, and 60% said the authority should inspect new premises before they were allowed to open, with 68% calling for an annual inspection to check standards.

There was also a call to move to a national standard for food hygiene training for staff who handle or sell food.

The Consumers Association is calling on the Food Standards Agency to do more to identify the sources of food poisoning outbreaks. It also wants action taken to combat the under-reporting of incidents.

Information

Emma Copeland, senior researcher for Health Which?, told BBC News Online the survey "Fit to Eat" showed people were concerned about virtually every part of the journey from farm to shopping bag.

"We want more information right across the board. We need to find out where food poisoning cases are coming from. Give people the information so they know when they've got food poisoning, and how they can report it."

Sheila McKechnie, director of the Consumers Association, said: "There is clearly public concern about food hygiene and the regulation of premises where food is prepared.

"We are urging the Food Standards Agency to do the research that would give us clearer information. This would help consumers to be more focused on what steps they need to take to protect themselves."

Outbreaks

A spokesman for the Public Health Laboratory Service said outbreaks were already investigated and sources identified.

But he added: "What we really have to make sure is that we have enough information in order to tackle outbreaks.

"But we need to be careful. We can't encourage everyone who has the mildest case of an upset stomach to contact their GP."

A Food Standards Agency spokesman said: "We have set ourselves targets to reduce food-poisoning by 20% over the next five years. We are aiming for a 50% reduction in the number of cases of salmonella.

"The concerns the Consumers' Association has highlighted are ones we share."

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | Health
Man dies from 'fast food bug'
28 Jul 00 | Health
Tough targets on food poisoning
19 Jul 00 | Health
Concern over food safety record
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