Vegetables: best served washed

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has today launched a new campaign reminding people to wash raw vegetables to help minimise the risk of food poisoning.

The campaign is in response to E.coli outbreaks in Britain and abroad this year including one linked to soil on raw vegetables and another caused by contaminated sprouted seeds.

Advertisements will run in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that will include advice on the hygienic preparation of vegetables. The campaign will be supported by PR activity across the UK. The aim will be to reinforce existing food safety advice about storage, handling and cooking of food, including raw vegetables.

Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at the FSA, said: ‘Our previous campaigns have highlighted the risks associated with preparing raw meat and poultry. However, recent E.coli outbreaks linked with vegetables and sprouted seeds have shown that handling fresh produce, particularly if it carries particles of soil, can spread harmful bacteria.

‘We commissioned research following these outbreaks which looked at people’s attitudes towards food safety when preparing vegetables. This showed us that the perceived risk of food poisoning from vegetables was low, whereas most people questioned were more cautious when handling meat. There was a limited awareness that cross-contamination from vegetables to other foods was a food safety risk. The aim of this campaign is to help raise awareness of this risk.’

The campaign messages include:

  • always wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw food, including vegetables
  • keep raw foods, including vegetables, separate from ready-to-eat foods
  • use different chopping boards, knives and utensils for raw and ready-to-eat foods, or wash thoroughly in between preparing different foods
  • unless packaging around vegetables says ‘ready-to-eat’ you must wash, peel or cook them before consuming

The campaign will run from the third week in November for one month in Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland the campaign will run for two weeks from 5 December and a further two weeks from 2 January 2012.