Last updated on 20 June 2014

Parents serve up their kids' food hygiene habits

washing hands in a sink

Parents have a big influence on their children’s food hygiene habits, according to a survey by the Food Standards Agency. The results show a link between how people currently prepare their food and the behaviours they experienced when they were kids. More than two thirds of UK adults (70%) said their parents insisted on washing hands before meals, with 62% now doing the same themselves.

Just over half (53%) recalled their parents washing chopping boards in between preparing raw and cooked foods – a behaviour that two thirds (66%) had recently repeated.

However, the survey showed that parents don’t always know best when it comes to food safety. Almost half (47%) of adults saw their parents washing raw chicken before cooking it when they were kids, with 46% revealing that they have done the same in recent months. It is this bad food hygiene habit that is the subject of this year’s Food Safety Week, which focuses on the message ‘don’t wash raw chicken’. Washing raw chicken can lead to a potentially dangerous form of food poisoning and almost a third (32%) of people said the reason they wash raw chicken is that their parents or another relative did so when they were growing up.

Bob Martin, food safety expert at the FSA, said: 'Our survey suggests that mum doesn’t always know best when it comes to food safety. A lot of people wash chicken because their parents did, when it has no real benefits and can in fact pose a substantial health hazard by spreading campylobacter, which is a bacterium that can cause a severe form of food poisoning. It’s this risky behaviour in particular that we want to tackle during Food Safety Week.'

Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year. It can cause fever, abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting and in some cases it can lead to life-long health conditions and even death. Washing raw chicken can spread campylobacter as water droplets splash germs onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment.

Bob added: 'I would urge people to follow the FSA’s guidance when it comes to handling chicken in order to avoid the risk of getting campylobacter poisoning. Make sure raw chicken is covered and stored at the bottom of the fridge to avoid juices dripping onto other food; don’t spread germs by washing raw chicken or using the same chopping board for raw and cooked foods; wash your hands after handling raw chicken; and make sure that chicken is steaming hot all the way through before eating it.'

Don't wash raw chicken

Food Safety Week 2014

For more information on the FSA’s campylobacter campaign, and for guidance on the safest way to handle chicken, visit food.gov.uk/chicken

Acting on Campylobacter Together

About the ACT campaign

For more information on the FSA’s strategy to tackle campylobacter, visit food.gov.uk/actnow