Brighton and Hove food experts tackle e coli danger

Posted On 06 Jun 2011 at 12:05 am

Consumers across Brighton and Hove are being reminded to wash fresh fruit and vegetables in the wake of the e coli outbreak in Europe.

The reminder comes as Food Safety Week starts today (Monday 6 June) and the death toll from the e coli outbreak rises.

The Brighton and Hove City Council Food Safety Team will spend this week highlighting some of the myths around food poisoning.

Their advice has been tailored based on the results of a survey by the Food Standards Agency.

German Doner Kebab

It found that, generally, people in the South East had a reasonable awareness of basic food hygiene.

But a number of myths persist putting people in danger from poor practices based on misconceptions.

For example, nationally 37 per cent of people either did not know or incorrectly thought that you could not suffer poisoning from leftover cooked rice.

Contamination

But rice is susceptible to contamination by bacillus cereus, a common bacterium in the environment which is present in dry raw foods, particularly spices and cereals.

The bacteria are not harmed by heat and can survive cooking.

If foods are not cooled quickly and refrigerated after cooking, the bacteria will multiply quickly.

Councillor Ben Duncan, the council’s cabinet member for communities, equalities and public protection, said: “The majority of food poisoning incidents tend to be linked to undercooked meat or cross-contamination from undercooked or raw meat to other foods.

“There is also a lot of confusion about when food is safe and when it is not, and our Food Safety Team do a lot of work to inform the public.

“This confusion also leads people to throw away food unnecessarily, so food safety education not only prevents food poisoning, it helps people save on money and waste.”

The team has displays in the reception areas at City Direct (Hove Town Hall) and Brighton Town Hall for the duration of Food Safety Week (Monday 6 to Saturday 12 June).

Food safety events are also being held at day centres and children’s centres in the city.

Dangerous

Other myths highlighted in the research include:

  • Plastic chopping boards are more hygienic than wooden ones. Not true, but three in five (60 per cent) think they are. Both can harbour germs if they aren’t cleaned properly after use.
  • If you get food poisoning it was from the last thing you ate. Almost a fifth (19 per cent) of those questioned thought this was true, but in fact for some bugs it can take up to two weeks for symptoms to develop.
  • Dropping food on the floor is safe to eat as long as you pick it up within five seconds. One in ten people questioned believed this, but alas there is no truth in the five second rule or any of its variations. 

Bob Martin, a food safety expert at the Food Standards Agency, said: “Getting food poisoning is pretty miserable but for some people it can be very dangerous.

“There are about a million cases every year and we’re working hard with food producers, processors and retailers to bring that number down.

“With Food Safety Week starting today we hope this research will help people think about what they do and better separate fact from fiction in their kitchens.”

For more information on food hygiene from the council’s food safety team go to www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/foodsafety, email ehl.food@brighton-hove.gov.uk or call 01273 292161.

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