Public perception of risk from raw vegetables remains very low in the United Kingdom, according to new consumer research conducted since E. coli outbreaks this year in Britain and Germany were linked to contaminated produce. Those outbreaks have led the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to begin a public awareness campaign to get more people in the UK to handle, store and cook raw vegetables safely.
"Vegetables: Best Served Washed" is the theme of the ad campaign that will run in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland between now and next January. The previous campaigns have highlighted the risks associated with preparing raw meat and poultry, however, recent E. coli outbreaks linked with vegetables and sprouted seeds have shown that handling fresh produce, particularly if it carries particles of soil, can spread harmful bacteria."
The "consumer engagement research" commissioned by FSA included both video recordings of four in-home interviews and four focus groups. The goal was to explore attitudes about risk, beliefs about food safety, and triggers that might change behavior. This is the advice:
- - Washing and scrubbing vegetables reduces bacteria as well as dirt and chemicals.
- - Bacteria carried on a range of vegetables could contaminate other foods.
- - Cooking vegetables kills bacteria and was perceived to be a potential defense.
- - Always wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw food, including vegetables.
- - Keep raw foods, including vegetables, separate from ready-to-eat foods.
- - Use different chopping boards, knives, and utensils for raw and ready-to-eat foods, or wash thoroughly in between preparing different foods.
- - Unless packaging around vegetables says "ready-to-eat," wash, peel, or cook them before consuming.