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Hygiene in shops and restaurants could be dramatically improved if the public demanded higher standards when buying...
Hygiene in shops and restaurants could be dramatically improved if the public demanded higher standards when buying food, say environmental health officers, who enforce food safety legislation.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) called on customers to use their buying power to discourage poor hygiene practice amongst the minority of food businesses which take risks with public health. This could include checking the use by dates of products, asking whether food-handling staff have received food safety training and even boycotting shops which persistently fail standards.

The CIEH made its call after a survey by health officers in Northamptonshire revealed that, of the 157 shops visited, 36% failed to meet the legal standards for temperature or use-by dates.

Ann Goodwin, CIEH assistant secretary, said: 'The Northamptonshire survey highlights the need to bring in consumer pressure. A minority of food businesses will only heed calls for better hygiene when customers demand it. We urge the public to help in raising standards by making sure shops and restaurants understand that it is simply not acceptable to cut corners with people's health. Check use-by dates, watch food-handling practices and, if possible, check that refrigeration systems work. If all else fails, and you can, go elsewhere'.


- In 1997 there were more than 100,000 recognised cases of food poisoning (Centre for Communicable Disease Surveillance).

- The Northamptonshire survey of shops was carried out by the food liaison group composed of environmental health officers and trading standards officers in Northamptonshire councils. A summary is available on request.

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