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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Food poisoning clampdown
dead cockroach on bun
Inspectors found poor hygiene standards in many restaurants
Food poisoning is on the increase in the UK but many caterers escape prosecution as people fail to report incidents, according to the Consumers' Association.

A report by the association reveals that public health scientists, who investigate food poisoning bugs, reported 97,000 cases last year.

But experts believe the numbers could be 10 times higher as many cases go unreported because people do not always link their sickness with food they have eaten until it is too late.

The Consumers' Association's campaign, which is launched on Wednesday, aims to identify where the problems are and ensure they are dealt with effectively.

Environmental health officers discovered infestations of mice in kitchens, poor hygiene and filthy food preparation when they inspected restaurants in the City of Westminster, London - the UK's restaurant capital.

Businessman Anthony Shale fell ill after attending a function where 80 other guests became sick.

Anthony Shale
Anthony Shale: Fell ill along with 80 other guests
But by the time health experts were called in there was no evidence to link the illness to the caterers involved.

"The worst part about it is by the time you've recovered and heard that other people have also fallen ill, it's too late to do anything about it," he told BBC News 24. "That's pretty reprehensible."

"It's bad when no-one can actually find out what they are supposed to do, and it's even worse when you've been ill and you're finding it very difficult to piece together whether or not other people have also suffered.

The Consumers' Association is aiming to make sure people know what they should do when they suspect they have suffered food poisoning.

Earlier this year the Food Standards Agency called for a tougher inspection system of food outlets after an official report showed almost half of the UK's 500,000 eateries broke health and safety rules in 1999.

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See also:

24 May 00 | UK
Food agency sets out stall
19 Jul 00 | Health
Concern over food safety record
28 Jul 00 | Health
Tough targets on food poisoning
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