Smorgasbord Health Column – Health in the News – Food Poisoning on the increase 2.5 million cases a year in the UK alone.

At the moment the headlines are focused on the Coronavirus and rightly so. It seems that apart from self-isolation should we be in contact with someone with the virus (if we know that they have it!) and washing our hands regularly to twice the rendition of Happy Birthday is our best defence. And washing our hands regularly whether there is an opportunistic pathogen in our midst or not is a very good precaution against a whole raft of infectious diseases.

There is no doubt that it is very concerning at the moment, but to put things in perspective, there were 2.5 million cases of food poisoning in 2019 in the UK alone.

And even more sobering are the statistics from the WHO Estimating the burden of foodborne diseases World Health Authority

“Each year worldwide, unsafe food causes 600 million cases of foodborne diseases and 420 000 deaths. 30% of foodborne deaths occur among children under 5 years of age. WHO estimated that 33 million years of healthy lives are lost due to eating unsafe food globally each year, and this number is likely an underestimation.”

Clearly many of these numbers quoted are in countries where there are other factors such as poverty, drought, famine and conflict where food is in short supply and contaminated produce is the only option. Also where cooking facilities are limited and hygiene is compromised due to lack of sanitation and water.

However, in most of our countries this is not the case.

Whilst contamination might sometimes be in our own kitchens (lack of hand and preparation surface washing, eating foods beyond their safe usage), the boom in takeaway food is fueling not just the obesity epidemic but the cases of food poisoning. And 2.5 million cases is not trivial and in some cases has been fatal.

I can remember buying a Chinese takeaway for the whole family when I received my first full-time pay packet in 1970. We went to the restaurant and selected our food items, read the local paper for 20 minutes as the food was cooked to order and handed to us in a paper carrier bag. Unfortunately, as I proudly took the bag out of the car and was about to enter our front door, the bottom fell out of it and spilled the contents all over the pavement. One of the containers had not been sealed properly… I was devastated, so my father drove back and reordered and paid for another meal…the restaurant I believe gave him a healthy discount.

However, whilst today there are excellent restaurants offering takeaways to collect or to be delivered, that offer a wide range of well prepared and that offer healthy options: there are an increasing number of ‘black kitchens’ being set up to take advantage of this billion pound business.

As this article shows, many of these are temporary portacabins that are set up with untrained staff and inadequate health protocols and are producing food that is dangerous to eat.

Because it is not a fixed address and can be moved frequently, they are under the radar as far as health inspectors are concerned, and probably only come to their attention when there is a spike in food poisoning cases in the area.

The other issue is of course that a large proportion of the takeaways do contain a great many calories and are not always made with healthy fats. Eating on a regular basis does not do our weight or health any favours.  Certainly not more than once a week if you are fairly active, and perhaps once a month if you are a couch potato!

  • A 12 inch Pizza for example with several toppings can weigh in at  1800 calories and 76 grams of fat.
  • Average Fish and Chips 900 calories 48 grams of fat
  • Lamb Rogan Josh with rice with a serving of naan bread 1060 and 40 grams of fat
  • Fried Chicken and Potato Wedges approximately 650 and 15grams of fat (one of the better options, unless you have a family bucket to yourself!)

One of the favoured locations for these rogue traders is likely to be within easy delivery to student accommodation……..

As this report from Fresh Student Living highlights  Students Spend £925 a Year on Takeaways

According to food ordering service Hungry House the average spend on takeaway food a month for students was £102.77, which equates to £924.90 each academic year. Those at uni order takeaways an average of 8.3 times a month, compared to the rest of Britain ordering just 1.95 times a month.

So, does this mean that students are unhealthy eaters or just plain lazy? We don’t think so! The truth is that, if you think about the time it takes to go shopping and prepare a home-cooked meal, not to mention the cost of ingredients, students are actually more interested in prioritising their studies and social lives over spending time in the kitchen.

One of the places that these ‘black kitchens’ they advertise is on social media and one of the key indicators that they might be an unlicensed and regulated restaurant is that they will only offer delivery to your home and not collection.

We’re scoffing our way to obesity on fast-food deliveries with no idea where they’re even cooked, writes Rose Prince for the Daily Mail

A takeaway diet based on cheap, addictive carbs, oceans of grease and tonnes of processed meat — often rounded off with a sugary processed dessert — is inherently unhealthy. We all know that. Of course we do.

But our growing dependence on the convenience of online ordering means we are not only consuming more and more of this noxious garbage every year, but blithely doing so without having any knowledge about where the food has been prepared, or by whom.

And the consequences for our health and well-being are proving catastrophic.

There was a time, not so long ago, when local takeaway orders — from a restaurant or fast-food outlet — were cooked on premises that you probably knew and were delivered by a dedicated courier.

Risk – But the boom in home-delivered food, which has seen the market hit sales of £10 billion a year, means dishes are increasingly produced in what are satellite food-prepping stations known as ‘dark kitchens’.

Read the rest of the article: Scoffing our way to obesity and food poisoning

Avoiding food poisoning when ordering takeaway.

  1. Before ordering check for a physical address on Yelp or Trip Advisor and look at the recommendations.
  2. The first time you order collect it yourself to see the restaurant and their licence to serve food usually in the entrance. Then if you are happy have your food delivered.

Some tips on how to avoid food poisoning when buying prepared foods and in the home during storing and preparation.

  • Be careful when buying prepared sandwiches, especially egg fillings or fish and it is best to buy from an established and reputable provider (most major supermarkets for example have a reputation to maintain, but still check sell-by dates).
  • Bear in mind that sandwiches are made with food products from multiple sources and even if they are not contaminated they may become so during the production of the finished sandwich.
  • As with all food you must prepare appropriately. As with other bacterial and viral contaminants,storing your food correctly is very important. Always store your meat and poultry at the bottom of the fridge so that they cannot drip on other foods and always put cooked foods on plates that have not held the raw meat.
  • Wash your own hands regularly and encourage your family to do so, as they are likely to be in and out of the kitchen and fridge at some stage during the cooking process.
  • Thoroughly cook and re-heat meat, fish and egg products and do not consume raw even if you are an avid steak Tartare fan.
  • Do not drink milk that has not been treated. Even if you live on a farm, milk straight from the cow could have been contaminated by the animal’s faeces.
  • Keep your kitchen and utensils spotless using very hot water and soap.
  • Wash all vegetables and fruit thoroughly.
  • Ensure that any soft cheeses are from a reputable source. Buying direct from the market or from the supermarket deli counter may not be the wisest choice. At least if the product is wrapped and sealed at source it will have not had the same opportunity to be infected. Some of the cheeses that are possible sources of the infection are Feta, Brie, Camembert, Blue Cheeses and other cream cheeses, as these have not been pasteurised.
  • When you have cooked food never allow to stand for more than two hours before eating. They should be kept at temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit; anything below that and the pathogens will thrive.
  • When you are out for a meal do not accept any meat that is totally uncooked in the centre, particularly poultry and minced beef products such as burgers. Send back and ask for a fresh plate, bun and salad.
  • Always refrigerate food that you have bought within two hours of purchase. Take cooler bags with ice packs to the supermarket if you are intending to be longer than that.
  • If you are pregnant you should avoid the above soft cheeses altogether along with smoked fish, sushi and pates and meat pastes from the deli. Canned pates and meat spreads have been treated to prevent bacterial infection but they contain preservatives and other additives that you may wish to avoid.

©Sally Cronin – Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here:

Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.





36 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Health in the News – Food Poisoning on the increase 2.5 million cases a year in the UK alone.

  1. Wow…That is a scary read, Sally…we have a new food service called Grab..however you order from a restaurant of your choice and they deliver which is quite good when the kids want something from the other side of town during rush hour…Black Kitchens haven’t arrived here…Yet! Those figures are scary especially when it is preventable…Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Sally, for an excellent article. Luckily, we rarely eat ‘take-away’ food, preferring to cook our own. So sad, that many people have ‘no time…’ to cook for their families.My mother, nor I, or thousands like us, expected a medal for cooking! (And we went out to work much of the time too).
    Are people becoming more selfish with their time, or is it part of a ‘new society’ ? It’s ironic that labour-saving devices have never been so sophisticated or given people such easier lives and yet one might question exactly what do they do with their extra leisure time? Puzzled of Spain…Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think people do look for a way to save perceived time.. personally I would rather spend the money spent on one takeaway on buying top quality ingredients and batch cooking for two or three nights at a go.. saves time and money and often tastes better.. We have just had a 28 day aged large steak, chips and fried onions that would cost 30Euro out for 12.50 because the steak was a couple of days over its sell by date… xxx♥

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent tips Sal. One that scares me most is people handling chicken, even in the home. You shouldn’t be touching raw chicken then touching anything else. You know I’m a germ freak. If I’m sauteeing chicken, once I’ve turned over and both sides have begun to cook, I get a new fork or utensil. to continue 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. Thank you very much for the very useful information, and the great advices on the bottom, Sally! We really have to gave more audience the food, which is our fuel for life. Nobody would do with her/ his car, what we are doing with our daily meal. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

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I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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