If You Could See Germs Spread


This awareness campaign highlights just how easily germs that cause food poisoning can spread in the home kitchen. It also illustrates how everyday kitchen habits can cause food poisoning and of the importance of good food hygiene at home. The “If you could see germs spread” campaign is a two-year, all island initiative by safefood and comprises television, radio and outdoor advertising as well as online information and support through safefood’s social media channels.

Target audience: All adults on the island of Ireland

Channels: TV, radio, outdoor, web

Website: www.safefood.eu

Press release: 2011, 2012

Launch dates:
Phase 1 - 07 November, 2011
Phase 2 – 26 March, 2012


Food poisoning in the home can happen very easily but is also easily avoided. Every year, thousands of people suffer from food poisoning yet these only represent a fraction of the cases that occur but are not reported.

Campylobacter is the most common form of bacterial food poisoning on the island of Ireland; of the 1,662 reported cases¹ notified in ROI in 2010, 25% were among those aged 4 years and younger. In the same year, there were 1,040 reported cases² in Northern Ireland. However the actual number of cases may be far higher as many cases go unreported. Those most susceptible to food poisoning are the young, the elderly and persons with an underlying medical condition.


¹ ROI - Provisional data from Health Protection Surveillance Centre quarterly reports (2010)
² NI – Provisional data from the Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland (2010)

The TV advertising used in the campaign was originally developed in 2003 by the UK Food Standards Agency and has been rebranded for the island of Ireland market.

The safefood campaign adopts a novel approach of using ultra-violet (UV) light to highlight the trail of unseen food poisoning germs in a kitchen, how they can spread throughout the kitchen and impact other members of the family.

The campaign’s clear call to action is urging people to make a clean break when preparing raw meat, poultry and raw vegetables.

“When preparing and cooking food in their kitchens, consumers can protect themselves and their families by 'cleaning as you go' especially when handling raw meat, poultry and raw vegetables"

Dr. Gary Kearney, Director, Food Science, safefood.


A study by safefood of the kitchen food hygiene practises of 120 participants preparing two meals revealed poor food hygiene behaviours; over half (54%) of participants did not thoroughly wash chopping boards after using them to prepare raw meat and half (50%) of chopping boards were contaminated with raw meat bacteria after food preparation. Almost a third (32%) of participant’s hands were contaminated with raw meat bacteria after food preparation and over two thirds (72%) of participants did not properly wash a knife used on raw poultry before using it to cut salad vegetables.

Specifically looking at dishcloths we conducted two studies. In one of these we removed dishcloths from 200 homes around the island. We found that E. coli was present on 27.5% of dishcloths tested and Listeria was present on 13.5%. Most people are using dishcloths with the intention of ‘cleaning’ – but in many cases they are not clean. We are not asking people to throw out dishcloths, we are suggesting that they change them every two days, and clean them using the washing machine or boiling them in water for 15 minutes.