Summary of the study
The cause of food-related illnesses is to a large extent to be found in private households. For this reason, AGES carried out a study on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health and Women's Issues in 2011 in which the behaviour of the end consumer when handling food was investigated.
The project "Food Safety and Hygiene in Private Households (LMSH)" was divided into different subject areas. In the following some partial results of the study are listed, which were supplemented with recommendations of experts.
Especially when travelling home for long periods and at higher outside temperatures, it is necessary to use an insulating or cooling bag to transport perishable foodstuffs in order to maintain the cold chain, as microorganisms multiply better at higher temperatures.
Nevertheless, the study showed that only a small percentage (16%) of respondents paid attention to cooling when transporting perishable foods (e.g. raw meat, dairy products...).
At low temperatures, bacterial growth is stopped or slowed down. Therefore, perishable foods should be kept in the refrigerator before processing or consumption. The cooling recommendations given by the manufacturer on the packaging should be taken into account.
According to the survey, only 48% know about the optimum refrigerator temperature of 1 to 5 °C and over 60% do not have a thermometer to determine the refrigerator temperature. 38 % of the refrigerators examined had a temperature of over 8 °C.
In principle, care should be taken to avoid contamination of food during preparation. It is therefore important to ensure personal hygiene before starting work (e.g. wearing clean clothes, removing jewellery), not touching the mouth, nose and hair during cooking and keeping pets away from food.
It is important to avoid cross-contamination when preparing raw foods that may contain microorganisms. After contact with raw food, hands should be carefully washed and kitchen utensils thoroughly cleaned (with water and dishwashing detergent!). Do not cut cooked or otherwise heated food on the same cutting board on which raw food was previously processed.
According to the survey, 86% of the test persons change or clean the cutting board (a major source of contamination or cross-contamination), the majority (over 80%) wash their hands before or during food preparation, but 13% do not do this with soap. General kitchen utensils (e.g. sponge cloth) or surfaces with which food comes into contact (e.g. inner refrigerator surfaces, kitchen table) are cleaned or changed by the majority of respondents, but there is still room for improvement here as well.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority (80%) think of food suppliers outside the home such as snack stands, canteens or restaurants when asked about the most frequent source of food poisoning. From this it can be concluded that consumers are not aware that their kitchen is a possible place where harmful microorganisms can occur or multiply.
It is therefore important to convey to consumers that they too, as part of the food chain, are responsible for food safety. This also includes the message that safe handling of food begins with shopping, transport and storage, and does not just consist of proper preparation.
Initiative "Cooking correctly and safely" (2010) (German)