Recent data reveals that 986 cases of campylobacter were reported in Northern Ireland in 2009. This figure is considerably higher than that of salmonella, which is more commonly known form of food poisoning, from which there were 159 reported cases in the same year.
In Northern Ireland, safefood and the Food Standards Agency are reminding consumers of the importance of good food hygiene in the home to reduce the risks of food poisoning.
The purpose of this year’s Food Safety Week, which takes place across Northern Ireland from 7 to 13 June, is to get consumers involved in preventing food poisoning caused by campylobacter. The public are being urged to prevent the spread of germs from raw foods to ready-to-eat foods caused by cross-contamination and to cook poultry and meat thoroughly.
Commenting on the survey results, Dr David McCleery of safefood said: 'The high number of people contracting Campylobacter means it is essential that we are all aware of this most common form of food poisoning and how to prevent it. In our survey, over a quarter of consumers prepare meals for children under 5 years old, and over 80% cook meals for other family members. It is crucial that we provide consumers with simple steps to help prevent the spread of food poisoning in the home.
'To prevent cross contamination, always wash utensils such as knives and chopping boards thoroughly after use with raw meat or chicken, and always wash hands in warm, soapy water after handling raw meat or chicken.'
Julie McKinstry-Harvey, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, said 'The good news is that people can take simple steps at home to reduce the risk of food poisoning by proper cooking and avoiding cross-contamination. If food is prepared, handled, and cooked properly, avoiding cross-contamination between raw food and cooked food, then these germs will not have a chance to spread and cause harm.'
Working in partnership with the 26 councils, safefood and the FSA have made available the 'Beat the Bug' toolkit for community groups across Northern Ireland to use during Food Safety Week. Packed full of tips to help groups get involved in spreading important food safety messages, the packs contain materials to assist community groups in organising their summer projects such as the ‘Beat the Bingo Bug’ game, a food safety quiz, posters and much more.