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Friday, 28 July, 2000, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Tough targets on food poisoning
children eating
There are millions of cases each year
The Food Standards Agency has set strict new targets for reducing food poisoning cases in the UK.

It believes that the number of infections can be reduced by a fifth in the next five years.

To help this happen, the agency is taking action to reduce the risk of infection in small businesses, as well as introducing better training for food-handling staff.

It will also fund an advertising campaign to attempt to improve standards of home hygiene.

There are an estimated 4.5m bouts of food poisoning in the UK each year - and 60 people die.

Each case is thought to cost up to 80 to the economy and health service when treatment and time off work is taken into consideration.

This adds up to an annual bill of 350m for the country.

Monitoring restaurants

The new initiatives will include schemes to increase the monitoring of businesses such as butchers and restaurants.

Suzy Leather, the agency's deputy chair, said: "This isn't just about funny tummies - there 's a real cost to people, business and the NHS.

"Food poisoning is common, it's a real illness that can kill people and it is preventable.

"Current levels of illness are unacceptable and we will work with the food industry to improve standards and with local authorities to ensure they are effectively enforced.

"If we can deliver on our targets then there will be real benefits to consumers and it will ease the burden on the NHS."

Two of the most common forms of food poisoning involve Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria - up to 750,000 people a year consult their GPs with these illnesses.

The Food Standards Agency was only formed in April, and has 87m of public money a year to spend.

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