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Food Safety Wednesday, 29 July, 1998, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Drive to cut poison cases
a burger
Are Britons handling and cooking raw meats safely?
The number of notified cases of food poisoning in Britain rose above 100,000 last year.

The loss to the economy of people calling in sick for work is put at around 1bn.

In an attempt to tackle these startling statistics, the government has launched a national food safety campaign to promote better practice in the kitchen.

"Providing simple advice to children and adults about the dangers of food poisoning and the steps that can be taken to avoid it is a vital part of the strategy to ensure food safety," Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker said at the start of the campaign.

Cooking instructions

Part of the problem is said to be that nearly half of all adults admit to not following cooking instructions on food packets.

According to one survey, 25% of people do not always wash their hands before cooking and 10% do not always separate raw meat from other foods.

Organisers said the findings gave cause for concern, given the rapid rise in the number of food poisoning cases reported each year and the development of virulent strains of bacteria such as E.coli 0157.

Unreported cases

Last year a record 100,000 cases of food poisoning were reported across the UK, but it is reckoned the true number of people struck down by food bugs could be nearer one million.

In the past 15 years the number of cases has shot up by more than 600%, costing an estimated 1 billion and 23 million working days a year.

In England and Wales, the number of reported cases rose last year by 11% to 93,901, in Northern Ireland they rose from 1,456 to 1,534 and in Scotland figures fell slighting from 10,234 to 10,117.

Good practice

The survey carried out by the Food and Drink Federation also found 63% of people do not have a fridge thermometer, and 8% do not always keep perishable goods in the fridge.

Nearly 15% admit they do not always cook meat products properly, and 23% acknowledge they have never been taught how to cook and prepare food.

FDF director general Michael Mackenzie said: "With a growing trend in once-a-week visits to the supermarket, awareness of good storage and food hygiene practice within the home is increasingly important."

Links to more Food Safety stories are at the foot of the page.


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