The food ‘sniff test’ could be putting consumers at risk of food poisoning

Monday 10 June, 2013. Food Safety Week urges consumers to dispel food safety myths.

Food safety myths – like using the ‘sniff test’ to tell whether food is safe – could be putting Northern Ireland consumers and their families at risk of food poisoning in the home, according to the latest research released to coincide with Food Safety Week, 10th to 16th June.

To dispel this and other myths - the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland and safefood in association with local Environmental Health Services - have launched a new Kitchen Check tool to help consumers improve their food safety behaviour.

The myth-busting survey revealed misconceptions, about food storage, whether or not food is safe to eat and general cooking and cleaning habits that are confusing consumers and potentially increasing their risk of food poisoning.

The Northern Ireland wide survey revealed:

  • Two thirds of people incorrectly believe you can tell whether food is safe by the look or smell.
  • Almost half incorrectly believe the ‘use by date’ is put on foods by retailers so you have to throw them out.
  • Two-thirds of people incorrectly believe you need to wash poultry before you cook it.
  • Almost half are unaware that cooked rice can’t be kept as long as other leftovers.
  • One in four believes food poisoning is caused by the last thing they’ve eaten.
  • One in four incorrectly believes food cooked in the microwave will be safe because the microwave kills any germs. 

Dr David McCleery, from safefood said:

The survey confirms that many of us still hold misconceptions on how we should store, prepare and cook our food."

"For example, two thirds of consumers believe that you can tell whether food is safe by its look and smell. This is not the case, as potentially dangerous germs like E. coli and Salmonella don’t always make food smell 'off' and do not affect the appearance of food. Instead, we would urge people to stick to the ‘use by’ date and storage instructions on the packet.”

In response to these myths the new Kitchen Check tool provides a step-by-step guide to the ‘dos and don’ts’ in the family kitchen. These include not washing raw meat or poultry, fridge storage tips, advice on best cleaning practices and how to ensure that food is properly cooked.

Debbie Sharpe from the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland said: “The survey results show that most of us are aware of good hygiene in the kitchen, but can still fall foul of some common misconceptions around food safety. For example, two thirds of consumers believe you need to wash poultry before you cook it. This is a myth and by doing so consumers risk spreading harmful bacteria around their kitchen. The Kitchen Check tool aims to dispel the confusion by helping to reassure the consumer that they are handling and preparing foods at home safely by replacing myths with facts.”

Food Safety Week runs from the 10th to16th June in Northern Ireland and is organised in partnership with local councils, the FSA in NI and safefood.

For more information on Food Safety Week and to download the Kitchen Check tool visit: www.food.gov.uk or www.safefood.eu.

David McCleery and Debbie Sharp with cleaning utensils outside

David McCleery, safefood and Debbie Sharpe, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland tick all the right boxes when it comes to food safety

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For further information please contact

Russell Lever
ASG PR
Tel: 028 9080 2000
Mob: 077 8828 8901
[email protected]

Editor’s Notes