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[12 MAR 99] STRATFORD ON AVON DISTRICT COUNCIL PRESS RELEASE
Food Poisoning Threat Still A Problem

Food hygiene standards in some butchers' shops across south Warwickshire have had to be tightened up, following a food safety campaign by council officials.

Butchers' shops in the area have recently been targeted by Stratford District Council through a 'mystery shopper' exercise, where environmental health officers masqueraded as ordinary customers.

They observed the way that foods were handled and there is particular concern that many butchers were failing to wash their hands between handling raw and cooked meats.

Officers have provided advice to those butchers where improvements were required and the exercise will be repeated to monitor improvements. Shoppers are now being asked to report any incidents where they think food has been handled in an unhygienic manner.

"This exercise has revealed that not all butchers are being as diligent as they should be when handling, slicing or weighing meat," says Rob Weeks, principal environmental health officer at Stratford District Council.

"Sloppy procedures like this pose significant risks to consumers and have always been a worry for food safety officers.

"Since the arrival of the E-Coli 0157 bacteria, which only requires a small number of bugs to cause illness, butchers failing to take adequate care when handling meat can play a major part in many food poisoning cases, even potentially life threatening.

"The Council's environmental health officers have been working closely with those butchers where we felt improvements were required, and we will be checking on them to make sure that our recommendations have been taken on board.

"If shoppers see any handling practices which they are unhappy with, I would urge them to question the shopkeeper directly, or they can contact the Council's food safety team on 01789 260832. All complaints will be dealt with confidentially.

"By combining our efforts with consumer pressure, I hope that we can safeguard public health as well as ensuring shops are able to carry out their business under safe and best practice."

The next mystery shopper exercise will be extended to include other types of premises, such as delicatessens, supermarkets and sandwich makers.

MORE INFORMATION:
Mark Lepkowski, Press Officer  01789 260104
Rob Weeks, Principal Environmental Health officer  01789 260810
   

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STRATFORD ON AVON COUNCIL

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CWN / Politics / Stratford on Avon District Council / 12 Mar 99

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