DON’T wash raw meat – that’s the clear message being sounded during this year’s Food Safety Week (June 16 – 22).
Middlesbrough Council’s Community Protection Service is joining forces with local suppliers to spread the word and help people avoid food poisoning.
An estimated quarter of a million people in the UK could be struck down by Campylobacter food poisoning this year, which is why the fight against the bacteria is at the centre of National Food Safety Week.
Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK - you can’t see it, smell it or even taste it on food, but if it affects you, you won’t forget it, and at its worst, it can kill.
The Food Standards Agency is spearheading a campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem and to raise consumer awareness of the risks and of the good hygiene practices necessary when handling raw poultry.
Middlesbrough Council, together with other Tees Valley Local Authorities, is asking local butchers’ shops to support the Food Safety Week campaign and promote the ‘Don’t wash raw chicken’ food safety message to their customers
Daniel McCluskey, from Danny’s Family Butchers in Middlesbrough’s Dundas Arcade, said: “It is important that food businesses like ours support food safety campaigns and help our customers to enjoy safe food.
“The message of Food Safety Week is a simple one that everyone can follow to protect themselves from Campylobacter.
“Although the bacteria may be present in raw poultry they are easily destroyed through proper cooking.
“However, it is equally important to prevent the bacteria spreading from raw poultry onto kitchen tops, knives and other utensils in the home, as this could then lead to food contamination and food poisoning.”
Edward Kunonga, Director of Public Health for Middlesbrough Council, said: “Reducing food-borne infections is a local and national food safety priority.
“In Middlesbrough, Campylobacter infections account for half of all food-borne diseases reported to the Council.
“The typical symptoms of Campylobacter include severe diarrhoea and abdominal pain lasting between two and five days.
“People suffering from the infection may also experience headaches, nausea, vomiting and fever. Recovering fully from the infection can take up to several weeks.”
The Council’s top tips for preparing poultry safely are:
* Don’t wash raw poultry before cooking it. Washing poultry can spread bacteria onto other food and work surfaces – this is known as cross-contamination.
* Always keep raw poultry separate from ready-to-eat foods.
* Wash and disinfect food equipment and work surfaces after using them to handle or prepare raw poultry.
* Cook poultry thoroughly until it is piping hot and the juices run clear.
* Serve it hot or cool it quickly then store it in the fridge and use within two days.
Councillor Julia Rostron, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “The effects of food poisoning can be devastating.
“It carries with it a considerable cost in terms of the health effects on those who suffer from it and the cost to businesses and to our health services in terms of sickness absence and in treatment."
“It is important to remind consumers of the health risks associated with handling raw poultry and the simple steps that can be taken to avoid the risks of food poisoning."
“It is also important to work with our local butchers’ shops and other food outlets to help spread important food safety messages.”
* The Food Standards Agency has provided more information on Campylobacter and the Food Safety Week campaign at www.food.gov.uk/chicken, and on its facebook and twitter pages.