The latest figures from the Food Standard Agency (FSA), the Government body responsible for food safety in the UK, suggest over half a million cases of food poisoning each year are caused by known pathogens. If unknown pathogens were included the figure would more than double. Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen, with over a quarter of a million cases each year. The two next most common causes are Clostridium perfringens (80,000 cases) and Norovirus (74,000 cases). Salmonella causes the most hospital admissions, around 2,500 each year. Poultry meat was the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year.
The FSA advises that all of these can be reduced by improving food safety and in particular with better personal hygiene. This is because the most common pathogens that cause illness in a food environment are either introduced or spread by hand. If pathogens are already present good hand hygiene will prevent them from spreading. Pathogens could be present in the food itself or on hard surfaces such as worktops, utensils and appliances used for preparation tasks. Touching a contaminated foodstuff or surface and then touching a previously clean surface will quickly spread the pathogen if other people then touch those surfaces themselves. This is why it is critical to always wash hands after handling uncooked food and when switching between tasks, and particularly when switching between raw and cooked ingredients.