A survey on habits and beliefs around food hygiene has found some people wash raw chicken before cooking and others check their phones while preparing food.

Ipsos interviewed 2,231 adults aged 16 to 75 in the United Kingdom online in March 2024.

Overall, 85 percent of adults said they cook or prepare food at home at least several times a week.

One potentially harmful habit was people using the same tea towel for multiple purposes, including drying hands and kitchen objects. The data suggest that almost four in 10 do this at least frequently. Even among those who say they cook and prepare food at home on a daily basis, the proportion of those sharing this habit is 36 percent.

More than a third always or frequently check their phone whilst preparing food. One in five store leftover food in open containers in the fridge.

Almost one in three respondents frequently or always wash raw chicken before cooking it. This practice can cause cross-contamination through splashing bacteria onto hands, clothes, worktops and utensils. Microscopic droplets can cause cross-contamination.

Myths and facts
Ipsos presented respondents with various food hygiene facts and myths. They were asked to state if they believed each was true or false.

Six in 10 think that it’s safer to eat food that has been gradually cooled down to room temperature before refrigerating, than it is to eat food placed straight in the refrigerator. However, FSA guidance states that harmful bacteria can grow in food that is left to chill slowly, and that it’s best to chill food not served immediately as quickly as possible and then put it in the fridge.

A quarter said that the statement “Freezing food kills all harmful bacteria” is true, and just under one in five appear to believe in the “5 second rule” about food that has been on the floor.

More than half agreed cheese is usually still safe to eat after cutting off any moldy areas.

Federica Curcurú, associate director at Ipsos, said: “The results show a mixed picture in terms of our habits and understanding around food hygiene and a possible gap between common knowledge and practises. For instance, nearly nine in 10 Brits know they should not use the same cutting board for raw meat and vegetables without washing it in between, yet only 18 percent always does that. The findings of our research serve as a salutary reminder of the importance to debunk common myths.”

FSA monthly survey
In another poll, the top three concerns for 2,066 consumers in February 2024 remained food prices, food poverty and inequality, and ultra-processed, or the over-processing of food.

The Consumer Insights Tracker is an online monthly survey commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It monitors the behavior and attitudes of adults over the age of 16 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Ten percent ate food past the use-by date as they couldn’t afford to buy more and 9 percent cut the size of meals or skipped them because of money concerns.

The survey found 13 percent had reduced the time food was cooked for, 12 percent had lowered the cooking temperature and 5 percent had turned off a fridge or freezer containing food.

More than six in 10 were concerned about the safety and quality of imported food while more than four in 10 were concerned about the safety and quality of food produced in the UK.

Among those with at least some knowledge of the FSA, there has been an increase in the proportion that trust the agency to do its job to 63 percent. Almost 80 percent are confident the FSA protects the public from food-related risks and takes appropriate action when such risks are identified.

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