Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 12:57 UK

TV chefs 'fail on basic hygiene'

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News, Edinburgh

Ready Steady Cook
Ready Steady Cook was criticised

TV chefs are setting a bad example by failing to follow basic hygiene standards, public health chiefs say.

Dr Layla Jader, of the National Public Health Service for Wales, raised the issue at the British Medical Association conference in Edinburgh.

She said programmes often did not wash vegetables before using them or separate uncooked meat from other food, raising the risk of food poisoning.

She cited shows such as the BBC's Ready Steady Cook and Celebrity MasterChef.

These are being watched by impressionable people - they should be setting a good example
Dr Layla Jader,
National Public Health Service for Wales

However, she said the whole industry was guilty.

The public health consultant said it was part of a wider drop in cleanliness standards in everything from schools to restaurants.

"You just need to have a look in any public loo and you can see the standards are not right. They are not cleaned properly and what is more people are not washing their hands.

"It is that basic, but without doing it there is a risk of all sorts of bugs from salmonella to e-coli.

"I feel very strongly that we really need a national campaign to remind people that this is important. We are supposed to be an advanced society."

She said one solution would be to make local authorities responsible for inspecting toilets as they currently are for kitchens. But she added that budgets had been squeezed.

Frustration

She was also angry at the example set by TV programmes.

"These are being watched by impressionable people. They should be setting a good example.

"I really get frustrated, I've seen it so many times. They bring in the vegetables, they open the bag and they make the salad straight from unwashed vegetables.

"They do it for the sake of expedience, but these programmes are watched by millions of people.

"It's irresponsible. If they are going to do something that's not healthy they should say: 'We are in a hurry but please wash the salad and vegetables before you serve it'."

Dr Jader also warned that meat was usually contaminated with all sorts of organisms.

"At least with meat you are going to cook it but if you are using the same utensils, the same dishes and the hands are not washed in between, you are transferring all the germs from your meat to your fresh salads which you are going to eat fresh.

"Food poisoning can be very bad, especially in hot weather."

Both BBC shows rejected the criticisms.

A spokeswoman for Ready Steady Cook said the programme followed the "very highest standards".

Meanwhile, Celebrity Masterchef added: "Before contestants are allowed to cook they are thoroughly briefed by our qualified home economists on all aspects of hygienic food preparation.

"In addition they are also monitored whilst cooking as we take the health of everyone involved in the programme extremely seriously."


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