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Friday, 9 November, 2001, 02:13 GMT
Food poisoning linked to parties
Poorly-cooked poultry is a source of food-poisoning
Poorly-cooked poultry is a source of food-poisoning
Food poisoning is more likely when people are catering for large groups, research has suggested.

Social events such as barbecues and Christmas dinners, are the kind of situations in which cooks do not stick to food hygiene rules, say experts from the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS).

They say problems can be as simple as people not having room for all the food they have prepared in their fridge.

PHLS researchers looked at the incidence of foodborne infections in the home between 1992 and 1999 in England and Wales.

People may be rushing, they might be less likely to remember their basic food safety knowledge

Iain Gillespie, PHLS
They found although the trend for such infections was going down, 88% of cases classed as outbreaks (affecting more than one household) were linked to social gatherings.

Iain Gillespie, PHLS clinical scientist, told BBC News Online: "People may be rushing, they might be less likely to remember their basic food safety knowledge.

"They might not wash their hands in between preparing raw and cooked food."

He said the quantities being prepared might mean it was not possible to store the food in the ideal way.

Mr Gillespie said those worried about cooking Christmas dinner should concentrate on ensuring the turkey was cooked properly.

Poultry link

Data collected by the PHLS on infectious intestinal disease showed 226 outbreaks (5%), were linked to private households.

On average, 20 people were affected in each outbreak. Of 4,602 people affected, 205 were admitted to hospital.

Food preparation advice
Wash hands before preparing food, between dealing with raw and cooked food, and before eating
Keep raw meats separate from other food
Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meat
Wash vegetables and salad carefully to remove soil and dirt
The risk of hospitalisation was higher than that linked with infection elsewhere.

Food was the main transmitter of bugs, accounting for 85% of cases.

Person-to-person transmission was responsible for 6% and waterborne transmission for 3%.

Most outbreaks involved salmonella from eggs or poultry (77%).

Chlostridium perfringens, an infection which results from poorly-stored meat, such as casseroles, accounted for 5%.

Storage problems

Cooks most commonly failed to store food properly or cook it correctly, or cross-contaminated foods.

The researchers wrote in the British Medical Journal: "Foodborne outbreaks in the home seemed to occur when individuals catered for larger groups than usual."

But they said improvements in hygiene in the food industry had contributed to the general fall in infections.

A spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency said: "The apparent downward trend in general outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease in the home is good news.

"However, there is no reason for complacency and consumers should continue to observe the golden rules of good hygiene by avoiding cross contamination, cooking food thoroughly and storing it properly."

See also:

11 Jun 01 | Health
Dirty hands 'poison thousands'
26 Aug 00 | Health
Salmonella cases 'rise'
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