SOUTH Gloucestershire food experts have backed a national warning against washing raw chicken.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is encouraging people to be aware of the dangers of campylobacter food poisoning by washing chicken before cooking it as splashes can easily spread the bacteria.

South Gloucestershire Council is lending its support to the national campaign and is hoping to promote improved food hygiene, which can help to reduce the risk of food borne illness.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, with up to a quarter of a million people in the country affected by it each year. Around four in five cases of campylobacter poisoning in the UK come from contaminated poultry and one of the main ways to get and spread it is through cross-contamination.

The FSA said only a few bacteria in a piece of undercooked poultry, or bacteria transferred from raw poultry onto other ready-to-eat foods, can cause illness.

It advises people to cover and chill raw chicken, don’t wash it, wash utensils, chopping boards and surfaces and always cook chicken thoroughly to kill any bacteria present.

As part of the campaign the council is providing information to retailers in South Gloucestershire who sell raw chicken and posters and leaflets to all of the district’s libraries and GP and health centres. The highest risk of severe symptoms caused by campylobacter poisoning is to the under-fives and older people, so resources have also gone out to those groups via local Sure Start centres and friendship clubs.

Environmental health officer Diane Foster said: “It’s important that we do our part to make sure that people know to handle and cook food safely for themselves and for their families.

“We’re proud to be keeping people in South Gloucestershire safe and well by being part of this campaign to spread the word – and not the germs.”

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