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Food Standard Agency chairman Dr Michael Walker
"At best, food poisoning is a nuisance - at worst, it can be life threatening to the very vulnerable"
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Monday, 5 February, 2001, 12:26 GMT
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One in ten people in Northern Ireland has suffered from food poisoning according to a report published by the Food Standards Agency.

The agency, which has carried out a UK-wide survey of consumer attitudes, says official statistics massively under-estimate the number of cases.

The chairman of Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland said food poisoning was a "nuisance at best but, at its worst, could be life-threatening for the very vulnerable".

"If you look at the population of Northern Ireland at 1.6m, it amounts to quite a number of people," said Doctor Michael Walker.

We've set ourselves a target of reducing food poisoning instances by 20%

Dr Michael Walker
He said the problem with food poisoning was that it was sporadic nature.

"The difficulty with food poisoning is that 95% of cases is sporadic - in other words no single cause is ever identified positively to attribute them to."

No warning inspections

He said a number of measures were being implemented in order to counter the problem.

"We've set ourselves a target of reducing food poisoning instances by 20%.

"We're working in partnership with local authorities to maximise good food law enforcement.

"That will have an impact on the sorts of things that people are worried about - take-aways etc."

He said this included no-warning inspections by environmntal health officers of kitchens in which food for public consumption was prepared.

Dr Walker added that the agency was working in tandem with food businesses to promote a food safety culture.

This included training and the drawing up of procedures to tighten up hygiene standards.

The survey indicated that up to five million people from throughout the UK believed they had suffered from food poisoning.

The report added that only a fraction of this number reported their illness to the suspected source.

Least affected by food poisoning were those in the over 66 age group. The report also suggested this section of the population eats out less frequently than those from other age groups.

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