More than 1 million Britons suffer from food poisoning every year, with supermarket chicken cited as biggest offender, according to government statistics

LONDON , June 27, 2014 (press release) – MORE than one million Britons suffer food poisoning every year, with supermarket chicken named as the biggest offender.

A huge problem of sickness, diarrhoea and vomiting linked to dirty food and poor hygiene in the home and restaurants is revealed in new figures from the Food Standards Agency.

Apart from the personal misery, the cost of treating the victims of this epidemic in terms of the NHS and time off work is put at more than £1.8billion a year.

The watchdog names campylobacter, which is most often found on raw chicken, as the biggest cause of food poisoning, ahead of Clostridium perfringens and the norovirus, which is commonly associated with shellfish.

It says that salmonella, which historically is linked to contaminated eggs but is also found in fresh produce, causes the most admissions to hospital at about 2,500 a year.

In most cases contamination with campylobacter and other food bugs leads to a short-term tummy bug. But they can have serious complications including paralysis and even death.

The agency has re-calibrated the way it measures sickness linked to food to provide a new – and more reliable – estimate of the true scale of the problem.

It reports: ‘There are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. This figure would more than double if it included food poisoning cases from unknown pathogens.’

Significantly, it said: ‘Poultry meat was the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year.’ Agency officials are so concerned about campylobacter contamination of chicken that it has launched a survey of the meat on sale in supermarkets with the intention of regularly publishing a ‘name and shame’ list.

The first of these surveys is expected to be published in the next fortnight and the hope is that it will shame traders, forcing them to take more action to protect their customers.

The new estimates of food poisoning were produced by a team from the University of Liverpool.

Lead researcher, Professor Sarah O’Brien, said: ‘These findings will help the FSA to target its resources more effectively in tackling food poisoning.

‘They confirm that the FSA is right to put campylobacter at the top of its priority list.

‘It is the biggest food safety problem we have and more needs to be done to tackle it.’

The British Retail Consortium insists that supermarkets are already tackling the problem.

A spokesman said: ‘Retailers fully support the FSA’s objective to reduce campylobacter and are investing in their supply chains working with farmers and processors to identify controls.

‘Measures implemented include introducing leak-proof packaging on all whole birds to control the spread of any contamination and provision of on-pack labelling which advises consumers on how to handle and prepare poultry.

‘Campylobacter is killed by normal cooking so providing people prepare chicken properly and follow sensible hygiene practices they’re at no risk.’

After poultry, the next greatest food poisoning risks are vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, responsible for 48,000 cases, followed by beef and lamb, with 43,000.

© Daily Mail

(c) 2014 Associated Newspapers Company

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