Food Hygiene and staying safe

According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), more than 200 diseases are spread through food.

1 in 10 people fall ill every year from eating contaminated food and 420,000 die.

Most people will experience a food borne disease at some point in their lives, with the most common symptoms being stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea.
We can probably all think of at least one occasion right now. This alone makes us realise just how important it is that the food we eat is not contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, toxins and chemicals.

In 2016/17, the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland were notified of and investigated 2,265 foods, feed and environmental contamination incidents in the UK. These incidents included concerns about possible threats to the safety, quality or integrity of food and feed, as well as actual and confirmed threats.
Today’s food supply is complex and often involves a long journey that includes a range of different stages – on-farm production, harvesting or slaughtering, processing, storage, transport, distribution and then the customer! Globalisation has made the food chain longer and more complicated.

Gone are the days when most of what we ate at home was sourced locally and only travelled a few miles. Supermarkets now stock items from across the world, fuelled by demand for more exotic food stuffs and for items all year round.

We can’t do much to alter the food chain other than buying everything locally but we can help reduce food contamination by the way we handle food at home and at work.

Everybody has a role to play in keeping food safe – governments, industry, producers, academia, consumers. Local communities, groups and schools can help play an important part by circulating information and following good practices.

Proper food preparation can prevent most food borne diseases and for the general consumer, the most important defence is information. Being well informed on common food hazards and how to handle food safely.

The recent TV ad for Dettol Wipes uses raw chicken to highlight cross-contamination of work surfaces and like the ad or not, it makes a point.

According to the Food Standards Agency, the majority of food borne illness is preventable. The FSA continues to raise awareness and improve understanding of foodborne disease through a Food Hygiene Campaign incorporating effective food safety messages.

Sticking to some basic food hygiene rules can prevent us from getting sick. The NHS website has some great tips and lots of helpful information to help prevent food poisoning at home. Here are some basics:

1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap before handling food, after handling raw food, after touching the bin, going to the toilet, blowing your nose or touching animals.

2. Wash worktops before and after preparation. Hot soapy water is fine.

3. Wash dishcloths and tea towels regularly.

4. Use separate chopping boards to prepare raw food

5. Keep raw meat separate

6. Store raw meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge in case it drips.

7. Cook poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs thoroughly until steaming hot, with no pink meat inside. Don’t wash raw meat before cooking as it can spread bacteria around the kitchen.

8. Keep your fridge below 5ºc to prevent harmful germs from growing.

9. Cool leftovers quickly, within 90 minutes, store in fridge and use within 2 days.

10. Respect ‘use-by’ dates.

Getting sick from contaminated food is more widespread than perhaps most of us think, but on a day to day basis with a good hygiene routine and following some basic rules, it is not difficult to minimise the risks so we can enjoy all the food we eat.

Food Standards Agency, Annual Report of Food Incidents 2016/2017