Food Standards Agency
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Food Safety Week 2011

With the major E.coli incident ongoing in Europe, the start of the annual Food Safety Week is a strong reminder of the importance of following good food hygiene.

This year, Food Safety Week is focusing on good hygiene in the home, which will help stop the spread of harmful bacteria. At the same time the Agency is working closely with food businesses all along the food chain to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria reaching our plates.

To investigate what people think good hygiene is, in the run-up to Food Safety Week, the Agency asked more than 2,000 people whether they thought a range of statements about food safety were true or false. The research showed that most of us are aware of good hygiene in the kitchen, but can still fall foul of some common misconceptions around food safety.

More than half (57%) of us believe that we can tell if food is safe to eat just by its appearance or smell. This is wrong. Potentially dangerous food bugs like E.coli don’t always make food smell ‘off’ and do not affect the appearance of food.

More than a third (37%) of people questioned thought that ‘use by’ dates are put on food packaging to encourage shoppers to throw it out so they have to buy more. In reality the ‘use by’ date is required by law and is an important indicator of how long a food will remain safe to eat. Other dates that also appear, such as ‘best before’ and ‘sell by’ dates, relate to the food’s quality rather than its safety.

Bob Martin, a food safety expert at the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘This research shows that many of us still have some misconceptions about how we should store, prepare and cook our food, which could put us at more risk of food poisoning.

‘There are about a million cases of food poisoning every year in the UK and as we have seen with the incident in Germany some cases can be very dangerous. We’re working hard with food producers, processors and retailers to bring that number down and we want consumers to do their bit too. With Food Safety Week starting this week we hope this research will help people think about what they do and better separate fact from fiction in their kitchens.’

A range of Food Safety Week events are being run across the UK, in schools, community groups and local councils, to highlight the importance of food safety and hygiene in the home.

The full set of results from the research can be found at the link below.

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