Salmonella and E. coli are the most known types of food poisoning by the public in the United Kingdom, according to a survey. The Food Standard Agency’s biannual public attitudes tracker (May 2018) found 91 percent were aware of Salmonella and 85 percent of E. coli.

Norovirus was third with 56 percent, Listeria with 51 percent and Botulism 46 percent. Only 24 percent said they were aware of Campylobacter despite it being the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. Most likely sources of food poisoning were raw chicken or turkey (79 percent), shellfish (55 percent), reheated take-away food (46 percent) and eggs (37 percent).

Other sources were unwashed vegetables or salad (29 percent), cooked sliced meats (19 percent), pre-prepared salads (18 percent) with cereal (2 per cent) at the bottom of the list. 

Cooking food thoroughly was most commonly reported way of avoiding food poisoning (76 percent). The survey included more than 2,000 consumers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The top food safety issues of concern were food hygiene when eating out (33 percent), chemicals from the environment, such as lead, in food (30 percent), food additives (29 percent) and food poisoning (28 percent).

Almost half reported concern about food safety in UK restaurants, pubs, cafes and takeaways and 43 percent had the same worries in UK shops and supermarkets. Nearly eight in ten respondents said they were aware of the FSA. Of these, 69 percent trusted the FSA to do its job and 72 percent trusted it to tell the truth in the information it provides.

Meanwhile, a survey in New Zealand has looked at the food safety culture in businesses. 

The Food Safety Assurance and Advisory Council (FSAAC) and New Zealand Food Safety (part of the Ministry for Primary Industries) looked at how businesses view and develop food safety cultures internally and across the supply chain. Nine hundred food business and 193 employees across the supply chain from manufacturers to retailers were surveyed. FSAAC chair, Michael Ahie, said it wanted to get a better understanding of food safety culture in the workplace.

“Food safety must be treated as a way of doing business and not just something that is discussed at a weekly meeting. This initial research provides a baseline that will be valuable for tracking improvements over time.”

Paul Dansted, New Zealand Food Safety’s director of food regulation, said having a strong food safety culture was important for the health of consumers and strength of the economy.

“But there is still work to do to ensure consistency across all types and sizes of food businesses, and right across the supply chain, whether it’s growing, harvesting, importing, processing, transporting, storing, exporting, or selling,” he said.

Dansted said it must look at continuous improvement of the food safety system.

“Where food businesses are doing well is keeping customer safety top of mind and having formalized food safety policies and procedures, with 95 percent saying they had policies and rules in place to identify and deal with food safety risks. There’s also good leadership driving food safety culture with 75 percent of employees surveyed saying that their managers visibly show support for food safety and walk the talk,” he said.

However, findings show there is room for improvement, added Dansted.

“Businesses also need to develop a more inclusive and shared sense of responsibility for food safety across the whole organization. Only 3 percent of food businesses surveyed report data on their food safety performance back to their employees.” 

Only 13 percent of firms said they had a formal reward system for staff who identified food safety problems. New Zealand Food Safety will be releasing a food safety guide aimed at boards, directors, chief executives and business owners this month.

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