Friday, 27 July 2012

The FSA'S Play It Safe Campaign: Do YOU Take a Risk with Fast Food?

The Food Standards Agency have been touch with me about the findings of a new survey they've conducted, and I thought it would be good to share it with you.

According to the study, three quarters of us take a risk with food safety when we're eating on the go. This might mean that we are more at risk of food poisoning. This worries the FSA, as the findings were announced just ahead of the Olympics, when higher numbers of people will be watching the games and grabbing a bite to eat at one of the many vendors at the different sites.

The survey also revealed that 27% of people said they were more likely to take a risk with food safety after a night out, and 15% said they were more likely to take a food safety risk at a sporting event, which makes the Olympics very relevant right now. A huge 26% of people also said they were more likely to overlook food safety risks when on holiday. And bearing in mind we're going to be getting a lot of visitors coming into the UK this summer - and it's the school holidays, it could mean trouble.


The FSA says that they've worked hard to make sure there's little chance of a food poisoning outbreak this summer during the Olympics.... but it doesn't mean you should take a risk with fast food....

It also seems we're misguided over what actually causes food poisoning. Of the people questioned, the highest proportion (12%) thought you were most likely to get food poisoning from Indian or Asian foods, while only 0.7% thought you could get it from Italian food; whereas in actual fact, food from any world cuisine can give you an upset tummy.  

The same goes for which ingredients cause food poisoning. When asked which food people trusted the least in terms of food safety, most people (40%) replied raw fish and shellfish. 23% said cooked shellfish and 9% didn't trust formed processed meat. The food with the least mistrust went to ice cream (1% of people) - which, if thawed and then re-frozen can actually cause quite a nasty stomach upset. What was interesting, is that rice, which ranked fairly low on the list, is thought to be responsible for many of the food poisoning cases in the UK because in many takeaways it's cooked and then reheated before serving. And if that rice is sitting around and not refrigerated and then not heated through properly before serving then you're not going to be a happy camper after your chicken balti.

So, in light of this research, and that the Olympic and Paralympic games are just around the corner, the FSA have released a checklist showing you how you can look after yourself and reduce the risk of food poisoning if you're eating out and about this summer (whether you're going to any games or not).

The FSA Guidelines on Playing It Safe this summer: 
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before eating, touching or cooking food. If you're not sure if there are any washing facilities where you're going, consider taking a pack of wipes or some anti-bacterial hand gel (you can pick these up at supermarkets and chemists).
  • Outside of Olympic venues, have a look to see if you can see any food hygiene rating stickers on the door or walls of a takeaway or restaurant.
  • Use your common sense. Does the place/van/kiosk look clean? Can you see both raw and cooked foods on display, and are they being kept separate? When you finally receive your food, check it's piping hot and cooked all the way through before you eat it.
And remember - if you're ever in doubt about the food you're about to eat, don't take a risk - go somewhere else.

Sarah Appleby, Head of Enforcement at the FSA stressed that: "we hope that out advice to the public and the work we have been doing with our local authority colleagues to support businesses will make a food safety incident highly unlikely. However, if you do fall ill with suspected food poisoning, report it to your doctor or local council and they will take the appropriate action."

I'm often reassured when I see people preparing food wearing those plastic gloves when I'm out and about - and athough even in the fanciest of restaurants there could be a chance you might get food poisoning, it's good to know that there are steps you can take to reduce those risks. Just keep your eyes peeled and use your common sense when eating on the go.

Do you ever take a risk? Are you surprised about the findings of this survey?

If you want to find out more about the Play It Safe campaign, visit www.food.gov/olympics