You might have seen our latest ad on television or heard it on radio. It’s about a mum getting dinner ready and on TV, we follow what she does by seeing it through a luminous light. This allows us to see the spread of germs, from the chicken she handles to the kitchen work surfaces she touches, onto other foods and then her child.
Some people find it really effective, while others think it’s over the top and might even put people off cooking at home. Because we value the feedback we get, (both positive and negative) and believe the messages in the ad are very important for consumers, we thought it would be worth explaining why we ran this ad and why we think it won’t affect whether a person chooses to cook.
Why are the messages in the ad important? When it comes to food poisoning, those most seriously affected are young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with an underlying medical condition – that accounts for about 20% of the population. For most other people, food poisoning means a few days of staying close to the toilet but for those vulnerable groups mentioned, the results can be serious. A quarter of all cases of campylobacter food poisoning notified last year to health authorities were children under 4. And in many cases, this would have resulted in hospitalisation. We believe many of these cases can be prevented by more careful handling of food.
How we handle food in our homes is one of the most important points in the food chain, which starts at the farm and ends up on our fork. Food poisoning data indicates that the home environment is where almost 90% of foodborne illnesses arise. To further understand this, we researched how people normally prepare food at home and this vividly showed the places where difficulties arise – whether it’s how raw and ready to eat foods are handled or how chopping boards and utensils are inadequately cleaned. It’s these everyday kitchen habits that we’re highlighting in the campaign, in the hope that people become more aware and change their behaviour as a result.
Does a food safety campaign influence whether we cook or not? Studies have shown that there are many factors involved in a decision to cook; factors such as social, environmental, personal, financial, time (or lack of) and lifestyle all play a part. When we researched the Chicken Food Chain and consumers attitudes to chicken, even though people perceive it as a “risky” food that is likely to carry bacteria when raw, it remains one of the most popular protein sources bought and eaten by consumers.
Another example would be the Pork Dioxin incident in 2008 – pork and pork meat consumption returned to normal levels very soon after the incident, as consumers understood what happened, had confidence in the product and recognised the regulatory controls in place.
When possible declines in cooking skills or frequency are reported, we’re also concerned. A lack of cooking skills limit’s a person’s ability to enjoy a healthy, balanced diet. And with two thirds of the population now overweight, being able to cook is an important step on the road to tackling this. If you would like to read more about the work we are doing to combat cooking skills and food poverty, the following links might be of help.
There is recent research from Bord Bia’s Periscope series which indicates that cooking is not declining and is in fact on the increase. The number of cookbooks, cookery programmes, food bloggers and grow-your-own allotments shows that more of us are interested in the foods we eat.
We would love to see this continue and for people to be aware of sensible food safety at home.