Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Environmental Health officers urge you to imagine the Millennium Stadium filled to capacity as Wales face England in the Six Nations.
Now envisage that crowd multiplied by four.
That’s over 250,000 people – the same number of people who could be struck down by campylobacter (the most common cause of food poisoning) this year.
The fight against campylobacter will be at the centre of attention for the Council’s environmental experts this week, as they mark Food Safety Week, which runs from June 16 to 22.
Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning. You can’t see it, smell it or even taste it. But if it makes you ill, you won’t forget it – at its worst, it can kill you.
It is most commonly found in raw meat, especially chicken, and problems can arise due to poor hygiene, handling, storage and preparation of products or undercooking of the meat.
Each year, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Environmental Health team investigates around 350 cases of food poisoning – 82 per cent of which are related to campylobacter.
This is why the Council is delivering the Food Standards Agency’s Food Safety Week campaign locally, to ensure Rhondda Cynon Taf’s residents, consumers and food businesses are aware and know how to protect themselves and each other.
As well as sharing essential advice and information, including an easy-to-access video for families to apply in their household, the authority will also be using the awareness-raising week as a chance to showcase the support it has on offer for food premises in the county borough.
Cllr Mike Forey, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Services and our Environmental Health Lead, said: “There is a huge wealth of advice on offer for residents and businesses about food safety and hygiene.
“We work closely with our partner agencies, especially the Food Standards Agency, to ensure the information is easy to access and delivers the key information and advice that matters to them.
“It really is just a few simple steps people can take to protect themselves and others. There are videos, step-by-step guides and more.
“Food Safety Week is also a good opportunity for us to serve up the advice and information we also have on food safety and hygiene ratings – also known as the “scores on the doors” – our officers work tirelessly on a daily basis to protect the public, visiting food premises, checking standards, assessing staff awareness and training and, in rare cases, taking the necessary enforcement action to protect the public.”
There are 1958 registered food premises in RCT – from restaurants and takeaways to cafes, sandwich bars and even school or care home kitchens. Each of these premises are inspected anything from every six months to every three years, depending on their risk frequency.
As a result of these regular inspections, 1774 food premises have their hygiene ratings – or scores on the doors – publicly displayed on the Food Standards Agency website. (Not all our registered premises are included in the ratings requirement, so don’t have a score.)
Last year, prosecution action was taken against five premises.
As well as the “scores on the doors” which allows the public to check the food hygiene ratings of any eligible business, residents can also benefit from the increasingly-popular Healthy Options scheme.
Food premises that secure a three star rating or above may be eligible to join the scheme and work towards gold, silver or bronze Healthy Options Awards, which they can display to show to customers their commitment towards providing a range of healthier, nutritional meal or snack options.
Find out more about scores on the doors and check your local premise's rating.
Check our your local Healthy Options venues
If you are a business, find out more about Healthy Options, including downloads and specific advice for different kinds of premises
Advice for Residents
Campylobacter is most commonly found in raw meat, especially chicken, and problems arise from poor storage, handling or cooking.
Cover and chill raw chicken. Keep it at the bottom of the fridge so juices cannot drip on to other foods and contaminate them. Keep your fridge at 5.
Don’t wash raw chicken – cooking kills any bacteria present while washing the meat can spread the germs to other foods, utensils and services by splashing water.
Washed used utensils. Thoroughly wash and clean all utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw chicken to stop cross contamination.
Cook chicken thoroughly. Make sure it is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut in to the thickest part of the meat and check it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices have run clear
Visit the Food Standards Agency website for more handy tips, a video, links and information on the symptoms of food poisoning and where to seek further help.
Key information for businesses:
Advice and assistance on food safety available from our Environmental Health Pages or the Food Standards Agency
Safer Food, Better Business is an innovative and practical approach to food safety training, with online modules and information for catering businesses, retail businesses, takeaways and restaurants.
Food safety and standard inspections are carried out at all applicable premises on a regular basis by Environmental Health Officers. Contact the team to find out more.
Expert advice and assistance on how you can protect yourselves and your customers by maintaining and improving food safety standards can be attained at any time from the team.
Food businesses that secure level three or above in their food hygiene ratings may be eligible to apply for the national Healthy Options Awards, a prestigious standard that shows to customers a commitment to offering a range of healthy, delicious, well-prepared foods.
Campylobacter poisoning usually develops a few days after consuming contaminated food and leads to symptoms that include abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and, sometimes, vomiting, It can last for between 2 and 10 days and can be particularly severe in small children and the elderly. In some cases, it can affect you forever - sparking off irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reactive arthritis and in rare cases, Guillain-Barré syndrome – a serious and sometimes permanent condition of the nervous system.
About four in five cases of campylobacter poisoning in the UK come from contaminated poultry. One of the main ways to get and spread campylobacter poisoning is through touching raw chicken. FSA advice is not to wash raw chicken. Germs can be spread to kitchen surfaces, clothing and utensils.
On a quarterly basis over the next year, the FSA will release the results of tests carried out on about 1,000 samples of chicken being sold by UK retailers. The information published for each sample will include details about where the chicken was bought, the abattoir that processed it, whether or not the sample contained campylobacter and if so, how heavily it was contaminated.
Everyone is working hard to solve this:
UK Government to lobby in the EU for better hygiene controls, and to hold industry to account
farmers and producers to reduce the number of flocks of broilers (chickens grown for meat) that contain campylobacter when they are presented for slaughter;
slaughterhouses and processors to make sure that the processes they use keep levels of contamination in the birds they produce to a minimum.
caterers to make sure that they and their staff are aware of the risks from raw poultry and work harder to avoid cross-contamination during handling or from under-cooking.
local government partners to help raise awareness of Campylobacter and ensure that food businesses using chilled poultry meat are aware of the risks and keeping to the highest standards of hygiene.
retailers and supermarkets to play their role by advising their customers not to wash raw chicken and to cook it thoroughly.
consumers to reflect on whether the way that they handle food in their homes risks food poisoning for themselves and their families.