Poor pub hygiene link to rise in gastric infections

A third of ice cubes used to chill juices, coffees and cocktails contain hazardous levels of bacteria indicative of poor hygiene standards, research reveals.

A failure by restaurants and pubs to clean ice machines and trays properly, and chilling drinks with cubes left in the freezer for months, is putting consumers' health at risk.

The findings, released by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) at their annual conference today, may help explain the huge rise in gastric-infections such as E.coli in Britain over the past two decades.

One in four Britons suffers from diarrhoea and vomiting caused by intestinal infections every year – a 50 per cent rise since the 1990s, according to a second HPA study being presented at the conference at Warwick University this week.

The second study reveals about 17 million people suffered from a tummy bug last year, which accounted for nearly 19 million lost working and school days.

The rise in gastric-infections puts considerable pressure on the NHS. About a million victims consulted their GP as a result last year.

There is significant under-reporting of such illnesses to national health organisations. For example, only 10,000 of the three million cases of the Norovirus infection, which typically spreads across Britain in early winter, are captured by official statistics.

Lead researcher, Professor Sarah O'Brien, from the University of Manchester, said: "Our research confirms that public health policy should continue to be directed at preventing diarrhoea and vomiting by promoting good personal and food hygiene."

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