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The causes of Foodborne Illness

A large proportion of foodborne illness in the UK is considered preventable, and simply the result of poor hygiene practices.

While much investment and research is focused on making foods safer in the early stages of the food chain (eg vaccinating hens to prevent salmonella in eggs), the role of food handlers/preparers is a crucial point of risk and potential intervention.

Practices can render previously uncontaminated foods unsafe to eat - through cross-contamination; and contaminated foods safe to eat - i.e. via thorough cooking. The latter is particularly important when handling food products that have high contamination rates at the point of retail. For example, 70% of UK supermarket chickens are Campylobacter positive.

Approximately 60% of foodborne disease outbreaks are linked to eating establishments and commercial caterers, rather than the home.

Multiple risk factors for foodborne illness are commonly implicated in outbreaks including inadequate heat treatment (50%), inappropriate storage (45%), cross-contamination (39%) and infected food handlers (12%). Domestic kitchens are also a significant source of sporadic foodborne disease cases.

Food poisoning stats

A 2017 UK study investigated the prevalence of food-risk-increasing behaviours among chefs, catering students and the public. It found:

  • 14% of the public did not always wash their hands immediately
    after handling raw meat, poultry or fish.

  • 32% of chefs and catering students had worked within 48 hours
    of suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting.

  • 22% of the public admitted having served meat ‘on the turn’.

  • 33% of chefs and catering students admitted working in kitchens
    where meat ‘on the turn’ was served.

  • 12% of the public and 16% of chefs and catering students
    admitted having served chicken at a barbecue when they were
    not certain it was fully cooked.

  • Chefs in fine-dining establishments were less likely to wash their
    hands after handling meat and fish.

    Those who worked in award-winning restaurants were more
    likely to have returned to work within 48 hours of suffering from
    diarrhoea and vomiting.

 

Changing Hygiene Culture

If the majority of foodborne illness is the result of behaviour and hygiene habits, what action can hospitality establishments take to reduce or eliminate it?

Education, campaigns, and visual reminders - such as effective signage - can have a significant impact.

National awareness campaigns such as Food Safety Week and the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) (launched in 2013) aim to educate the public. However, it is a challenge to translate knowledge into behavioural change when it comes to handling food at home or at work.

We want to help you improve hygiene compliance and food safety from the inside out - in your homes and workplaces. Encourage consistently thorough handwashing habits and exemplary food hygiene practices from all your staff, customers and visitors.

How to control food safety

Prevent cross-contamination and food safety by encouraging hand hygiene with our clear, effective signage covering:

Hygienic food preparation:

  • using different utensils, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked food
  • washing utensils, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked food thoroughly between tasks
  • reminders that you should not wash raw meat
  • handwashing immediately after touching raw food

Hand hygiene:

  • Safely managing sickness absence
  • Safe, effective food storage
  • covering raw food, including meat, and keeping it separate from ready-to-eat food
  • using dishes with lips, to prevent spillages
  • storing covered raw meat, poultry, fish and shellfish on the bottom shelf of your fridge
  • using separate utensils, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked food

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Food Risk

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