New safefood campaign calls on consumers to make a clean break in the kitchen

Food safety body safefood has launched an awareness campaign to highlight how germs that cause food poisoning can easily spread in the kitchen.

Recent research revealed 43 per cent of kitchens were contaminated with raw meat bacteria after food preparation. Results from a second study from safefood showed that raw meat bacteria can last at least 24 hours on kitchen surfaces. The campaign shows how unseen germs can spread throughout the kitchen and how careless everyday kitchen habits can cause food poisoning.

“This campaign uses a novel approach to show the unseen germs that cause food poisoning and how easily they can spread throughout the kitchen and impact other members of the family,” said Martin Higgins, chief executive of safefood. “By highlighting the trail of these germs around the kitchen and describing their journey, the campaign reveals the dangers to consumers of not following simple food hygiene practices and the risks this can pose to themselves and others. Consumers can help prevent the spread of these germs by making a clean break when preparing raw meat and poultry in their kitchen.”

Campylobacter is the most common form of bacterial food poisoning in Ireland, and of the 1,662 reported cases notified in the Republic of Ireland in 2010, 25 per cent were among those aged four years and younger. However the actual number of cases may be far higher as many cases go unreported. Those most susceptible to food poisoning are the young, the elderly, and people with an underlying medical condition.

“Food poisoning in the home can happen very easily but is also easily avoided,” added Dr Gary Kearney, director of food science at safefood. “Every year thousands of people suffer from food poisoning, yet these only represent a fraction of the cases that occur but are not reported. When preparing and cooking food in their kitchens, consumers can protect themselves and their families by ‘cleaning as you go’ especially when handling raw meat, poultry, and raw vegetables. Food preparation areas, chopping boards, utensils, and particularly hands, should be thoroughly washed with warm soapy water after preparing raw food, and before reuse with ready to eat foods. By following this advice, consumers can protect themselves by reducing the spread of unseen germs in the kitchen.”

A study by safefood of the kitchen food hygiene practices of 120 participants preparing two meals revealed poor food hygiene behaviours; over half (54 per cent ) of participants did not thoroughly wash chopping boards after using them to prepare raw meat, and half (50 per cent ) of chopping boards were contaminated with raw meat bacteria after food preparation. Almost a third (32 per cent ) of participants’ hands were contaminated with raw meat bacteria after food preparation, and 72 per cent of participants did not properly wash a knife used on raw poultry before using it to cut salad vegetables.

The two-year campaign from safefood uses the concept of ultraviolet light to reveal the unseen world of germs and how easily they can spread around the kitchen, cross-contaminating other work surfaces, utensils, and ready to eat foods in the process. The campaign will be supported by online activity at www.safefood.eu where consumers can take a food safety quiz, and on safefood’s Facebook page.

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