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"Innovative research" attributes more infectious diseases to food

There are an estimated 2.4 million cases of food poisoning every year in the UK - more than double the estimate in 2009, according to new research by The Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Despite the rise in numbers, the FSA says the figures do not indicate an increase in total illness, or any new risk to public health, but are a result of what it describes as “innovative new research” giving a better estimation of the proportion of infectious intestinal disease (IID) that is due to food.

The overall estimate for this type of illness, from all sources, remains the same, at around 18 million cases each year in the UK.

According to the FSA, there are an estimated 380,000 cases of norovirus - a type of IID that causes vomiting and diarrhoea - linked to food in the UK per year, with eating out accounting for an estimated 37% of cases and takeaways at 26%.

Open-headed lettuce on retail sale account for 30%, raspberries 4%, and oysters 3%.

Professor Guy Poppy, chief scientific adviser to the Food Standards Agency, said: “This work gives us a much better idea of the role of food in the spread of all infectious intestinal disease in the UK.

“However, this does not mean more people are getting unwell, only that we estimate food is responsible for more existing cases than previously thought.

“We are not changing our advice to consumers and businesses. Instead this research reinforces the need for the highest standards of good personal and food hygiene practices in catering establishments and at home to avoid infection.”

Fish and chip shops can find more guidance on personal hygiene when handling food here.

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