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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 11:17 GMT
Sickbags promote food hygiene
Basic hand washing removes harmful germs
A 20m safety campaign has beem launched to raise food hygiene standards across the catering industry.

Sickbags are being sent to thousands of restaurants, cafes and takeaways across the UK to remind them of the importance of good food hygiene.

It is part of a five-year plan by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to cut incidents of food poisoning by 20% by 2006.

An estimated 5.5 million people a year are affected by food poisoning, and they attribute it to eating in a restaurant, cafe, takeaway or fast food outlet, research shows.

Consumers clearly expect the catering sector to raise their standards

Sir John Krebs, FSA
This compares to 4.5 million cases in 1994-95.

The FSA says all too often, restaurants, cafes and takeaways breach safety regulations, by for example, failing to keep food properly refrigerated, failing to keep surfaces clean and failing to ensure staff wash their hands.

FSA chairman Sir John Krebs said the aim of the campaign was to persuade businesses to clean up their act.

He said: "Most cases are preventable through simple good hygiene practices like washing hands at regular intervals when preparing food.

"Consumers clearly expect the catering sector to raise their standards and are refusing to return to catering outlets they believe to be unhygienic."

The sickbags associated with the campaign are printed with the words "for safer food and better business - food safety, it's in your hands".

Public concern

The Restaurant Association (RA) has branded the FSA's marketing campaign as being offensive and in bad taste.

RA chief executive Ian McKerracher said he was furious to discover some of his members had received sick bags from the agency.

He said: "Food safety issues are too important to trivialise in this way.

"The FSA should be working with the industry to gain co-operation on this issue, not insulting us.

"It seems a grotesque waste of taxpayers money and a serious error of judgement."

The food hygiene campaign coincides with publication of the FSA's second annual Consumer Attitudes to Food study, which questioned 3,120 people across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It found an alarming rise in public concerns over food poisoning.

The survey showed:-

  • fears about hygiene in food outlets have risen significantly since 2000, from 42% to 51%
  • almost three-quarters (72%) of consumers' concerns were about cleanliness of the premises, staff or kitchen
  • 71% of people affected by food poisoning believed their illness had been caused by meals prepared outside the home
  • many bouts of food poisoning go unreported, with only 24% of respondents hit by illness reporting it to anyone.

    About two million people work in the UK's food industry, with the catering sector, which includes restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets, by far the biggest employer.

    Latest statistics reveal 118,555 restaurants and catering premises broke some food safety rules in the 12 months up to July last year.

    The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
    "One in three businesses break food hygiene regulations"
    Sir John Krebbs, Food Standards Agency
    "What we want to do is raise awareness"
    See also:

    11 Jun 01 | Health
    Dirty hands 'poison thousands'
    03 May 01 | UK
    Tackling a bug's life
    20 Aug 01 | Health
    Copper answer to food poisoning
    09 Mar 99 | Medical notes
    E. coli
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