New bug poisons half a million

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The Independent Online
A RETURN to traditional cooking methods could halt an epidemic of food poisoning sweeping Britain, a food-safety expert said yesterday. Hugh Pennington, a bacteriologist from Aberdeen University, said the threat of campylobacter - a bacterium responsible for 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year - was growing because of carelessness in the kitchen.

Speaking at the start of National Food Safety Week, he said: "One of the problems is that now we all want our food fast. People are in a terrible hurry - a quick blast in the microwave and that's it ... The old- fashioned cooking methods your grandmother used were safer, because they ensured that food was cooked properly, for a long enough time."

Prof Pennington pointed to the relatively low incidence of food poisoning in Northern Ireland, where, he said, more people clung to long-standing culinary traditions such as having a Sunday roast.

The increased threat of campylobacter - found in raw or under-cooked meats and unpasteurised milk - contrasts with a decrease in salmonella cases, which have declined by a third over the past year.

Food Safety Week comes as consumers in Britain remain fearful of Belgian meat and poultry contaminated by cancer-causing dioxins.

Prof Pennington added: "This particular bacterium [campylobacter] can cause abdominal pains so severe that in some cases victims have had their appendix removed mistakenly. That nearly half a million people are infected with this bug every year in Britain is a real scandal, because we know how to stop it."