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Food poisoning cases in UK twice as common as previously thought

by Charlotte Anderson | Feb 24, 2020
Knowledge about the importance of food safety has made waves in recent years. Avoidable tragedies, such as the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperhouse have put allergen legislation at the top of the agenda for both the FSA and food businesses in the UK. 

However, research released today shows that there is still considerable work to be done if we are to ensure that the public are protected from infectious intestinal diseases caused by food, whilst eating out or ordering takeaways. 

There are approximately 2.4m cases of food poisoning in the UK every year; a figure which is more than double the estimate recorded in 2009, according to the FSA. 

New research has provided a more accurate assessment of how many cases of infectious intestinal diseases (IID) were caused by food. In 2009 cases of food-bore illness were estimated to be around one million. 

The FSA were keen to point out that the increase did not represent an increase in total IID or an increased risk to public health. Rather, it gives researchers a better idea of the role of food in the distribution of IID in the UK. The FSA estimates that 380,000 cases of norovirus linked to food occur in the UK every year. This is just over 12% of the 3m norovirus cases annually, compared with the 2009 estimate of 73,000 (2.5%). FSA studies show that eating outside the home accounts for 37% of food-borne norovirus cases, whilst takeaways account for 26%. Open-headed lettuce accounts for 30% of cases, raspberries 4% and oysters 3%. 

Prof Guy Poppy, the chief scientific adviser to the FSA, said: “We are not changing our advice to consumers and businesses. Instead this research reinforces the need for the highest standards of good personal and food hygiene practices in catering establishments and at home to avoid infection.” 

The FSA advises consumers and food businesses to wash fruit and vegetables and follow good hygiene practices to avoid the spread of norovirus. 

What’s clear is that, whilst the numbers haven’t increased in the way the headlines would have us believe, they remain high; and having the knowledge and the systems in place to serve safe food, which is what it claims to be, isn’t just good news for public health, it’s good news for food businesses.


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