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Taking food safety home

In recent weeks I have chatted to many people about their personal food safety practices – what they do at home. It has been very interesting to challenge even food safety professionals on the differences between what they preach at work and what they practice at home.

Silly things perhaps, but where is your pet when you are preparing food?

Do you have colour-coded chopping boards or cloths? (Yes I know some of you might but what about the rest of you?)

Do you taste your food with the same spoon as you stir with?

Is your refrigerator correctly stacked with the raw items on the lowest shelves?

This shows me that it is wrong and indeed very dangerous to assume that people will automatically do the right thing at work, such as wash their hands after handling waste, because we assume they do this at home. They may not. Also, “Home” may pose some real food safety challenges anyway – living in a shack and not having access to running water makes washing hands a real luxury and not an essential behaviour.

So, what is my point? Well, have you considered that your food safety training programme is not just for what you do at work but it can also become a community outreach programme?

Why not include a specific module on food safety at home to try and improve understanding but also to keep your employees from becoming ill and potentially cross-contaminating your work environment with food-borne pathogens from home. This is back by sound scientific research too.

International studies attributing foodborne illness within the home had incidence rates from 12 to 64 percent and commercial foodservice settings in 21 to 85 percent. For studies in the UK, the home was implicated in 12 to 17 percent of outbreaks and food service between 44 to 85 percent of outbreaks (Eves et al., 2017). The European Food Safety Authority reported between 36 and 39 percent of outbreaks are attributed to the home setting in 2011, 2014 and 2015.

Food Standards Agency, UK, 2018

Although foodborne illness is preventable, more than 56,000 people per year become ill in the U.S., creating high economic costs, loss of productivity and reduced quality of life for many. Experts agree that the home is the primary location where foodborne outbreaks occur; however, many consumers do not believe the home to be a risky place.

Byrd-Bredbenner et al, 2013

What can you do?

You can include food safety at home as a focus for discussions for a month – June is a great month as this coincides with world Food Safety Day on 7 June. There is great material available free of charge. You can download the 5 Keys to Safer Food Programme and share with your employees:


If your employees are your greatest asset, show them that you really care.