People in South West England are putting their health at risk when cooking at home, a new survey has shown. 81% of those asked in the South West admitted to one or more habits that put them at risk of food poisoning, including 28% admitting they would eat food that has been dropped on the floor and 19% not washing their hands properly before preparing food.
These kitchen horrors have been exposed at the start of Food Safety Week, which runs from 10 – 16 June. During the week, the Food Standards Agency wants to get people in South West England thinking about food hygiene at home, by completing the new Kitchen Check. The Kitchen Check gets people to look at their own food preparation practices and will give them a score and some tips based on their answers.
The survey also reveals that 42% of people in the South West don’t check ‘use by’ dates, with 90% of them wrongly using the ‘sniff test’ and 70% just checking the colour – even though this will not always reveal whether food is safe to eat. Unlike ‘best before’ dates, ‘use by’ dates relate to safety and are based on scientific testing, yet 42% of those questioned said they would eat food after its ‘use by’ date – the most frequent food safety gamble admitted.
While admitting these risky kitchen habits, more than 87% said they are confident they get things right with food hygiene all or most of the time and 95% believe they’ve never given family or friends food poisoning. If they do fall ill themselves, only 5% of people consider whether the cleanliness of their own kitchen is the cause.
However, the survey also showed some encouraging examples – 93% said they wash chopping boards in between preparing raw and ready-to-eat food and almost 76% stick to the recommended 48 hours for keeping leftovers in the fridge.
Bob Martin, food safety expert at the Food Standards Agency, said: “By not washing their hands before preparing food at home, or ignoring ‘use by’ dates, people in South West England could be setting themselves and their friends or family up for a bout of really unpleasant illness. It’s encouraging though to see that the majority of people are concerned about food safety. We’ve created the Kitchen Check to help people to think about why they do in their own homes and make it easier for people to be knowledgeable and confident about storing and preparing food.’
Councillor Peter Seib, portfolio holder for Regulatory & Democratic Services at South Somerset District Council said, “The big issue for food safety is ignorance. People simply do not know that “use by” dates are critical or that “leftovers” should be thrown away after 2 days. Food poisoning is miserable and avoidable, poisoning your friends or neighbours doubly so. The costs to employers and the NHS are also huge. The food will have been safe when bought, problems occur later. Wash your hands and handle food safely.”
For more information on safe eating in the home and to take the Kitchen Check visit: food.gov.uk/kitchen-check