Almost half of the respondents in a survey in the United Kingdom said they have experienced food poisoning.
The figure of 47 percent of people who reported getting sick from food at some time in their life is up from between 40 percent in 2012, 41 percent in 2014 and 44 percent in 2016.
The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Food and You survey covered food poisoning, hygiene in the home and shopping habits. The agency uses the information to inform policies and work with consumers.
It includes data from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and collects information about the public’s self-reported behaviors and attitudes about buying, cooking and eating food. The survey, conducted between June and November 2018, included 2,241 interviews with a representative sample of adults across the three countries.
However, the self-reported public rise is not backed up by statistics from Public Health England, which covers England and Wales. The latest notifications of infectious diseases (NOIDs) weekly report, which includes data through April 21 this year, shows food poisoning is declining.
So far this year, 2,192 cases have been reported compared with 2,436 in 2018 and 3,070 in 2017. In all of 2018, there were 11,000 food poisoning infections recorded compared with 11,424 in 2017.
The survey found food poisoning was least common in two age groups — 37 percent of people aged 16 to 24 and 33 percent of people aged 75 and older, compared with 47 percent to 54 percent in other age groups.
A total of 16 percent said they had fallen ill when asked if they had experienced food poisoning in the past year. Fourteen percent of adults who reported becoming sick from food in the past year said they saw a doctor or went to the hospital.
Almost half, 43 percent of respondents, who had been ill said they took no action. Of those who did, 33 percent said they stopping eating at certain sites; 16 percent said they stopped eating certain foods; and 9 percent said they tried to get more information about the issue. Between 5 percent and 6 percent read food labels more carefully, changed the way they prepared or cooked food, or did something else.
About three-quarters of people agreed with the statement that “I am unlikely to get food poisoning from food prepared in my own home” and two in five agreed that “If you eat out a lot you are more likely to get food poisoning.”
Michelle Patel, head of social science at FSA, said the survey provides “a unique, robust and representative dataset, and is one of several ways that we build a robust and representative evidence base on the interests of consumers in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland when it comes to food.”
Most respondents, 87 percent, reported having seen the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) sticker. There has been increasing recognition since its introduction in 2010, from 34 percent in 2012 to 87 percent in 2018.
Businesses in England are not legally required to display the FHRS stickers, whereas in Wales and Northern Ireland it is mandatory. Local authorities are responsible for inspecting businesses to ensure they comply with legal requirements and for assigning food hygiene ratings based on those inspections.
About three in five, 61 percent os survey participants, mentioned good service as being important in their decisions about where to eat out; 60 percent said a good hygiene rating score was important; and 60 percent said the price of food was a factor.
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