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How many kitchen crimes are you guilty of committing?

kitchen crimes

Are you committing ‘kitchen crimes’ at home that could risk food poisoning? Guest author Geoff Ogle from Food Standards Scotland explains why we should all be checking our food safety habits.

When we eat out, we all expect the highest standards of food hygiene, but what happens in the home when some of the same risks apply?

The reality is that when we’re busy, it’s more likely that undesirable food safety habits can creep in when we’re preparing food for ourselves and the family.

What’s your biggest kitchen crime?

We recently launched a new campaign to raise awareness of these habits, by bringing to life 20 Kitchen Crimes.

For example, our Food in Scotland tracking survey shows that on average, people in Scotland are undertaking 11 out of the 20 food safety behaviours we’d like to encourage people to follow at home. Which means we’re all committing an average of nine ‘kitchen crimes’ in our home.

The sorts of food safety ‘crimes’ we’ve identified are:

  • The fridge mingler – someone who doesn’t keep cooked and uncooked food separated in their fridge;
  • The fridge stuffer – someone who crams their fridge full of food which raises the temperature, allowing food poisoning bacteria to grow more quickly;
  • The multi pinger – someone who thinks it’s ok to reheat leftovers more than once;
  • The ham sniffer – someone who thinks they can tell if food poisoning bacteria are present by smelling the food, instead of trusting the use-by date on the packet. You can’t smell or taste harmful bugs like Listeria, which can grow in many perishable foods such as cooked sliced ham. The ‘Use-By’ date is there to tell you how long the food will stay safe; and
  • The five-second believer – someone who drops food on the floor but eats it anyway. E. coli and other bacteria can transfer from surface to surface pretty much instantaneously.

Do you recognise any of these habits… and are you guilty of them? Most people don’t believe they can get food poisoning in their own homes. Although healthy adults might get away with just a bit of a dodgy tummy, young children under five and people over the age of 65 might experience much worse, and that’s what we’re keen to highlight.

Changing habits of a lifetime

Old habits can be risky when it comes to the safety of our food. There are an estimated 43,000 reported cases of foodborne illness, 5,800 GP visits and 500 people needing hospital treatment annually in Scotland alone. So, food poisoning really does extend past just a ropey tummy for some of us.

We want these kitchen crimes to make people smile, but also convey a serious message so that people recognise the habits they have. Many of these we learned earlier in life, so it’s vital to understand why we need to make a few small changes, to keep ourselves and our families safe.

So how many of the 20 crimes do you think you’re guilty of? Watch our campaign video and use our Kitchen Crime checker to find out.  Go on – I challenge you to check your food safety record – and then share your results with us below.

This is a guest contribution by Food Standards Scotland’s Chief Executive, Geoff Ogle. All views expressed here are Geoff’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.

Which food safety 'kitchen crimes' are you guilty of?

Judging sell-by and use-by dates by smelling the food (24%, 411 Votes)

Dropping food on the floor, but eating it anyway (22%, 381 Votes)

None of these (21%, 352 Votes)

Stuffing the fridge full and allowing the fridge's temperature to rise (13%, 227 Votes)

Mixing cooked and uncooked food in the fidge (11%, 180 Votes)

Reheating leftovers more than once (9%, 159 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,080

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Perhaps those consumers who throw away a third of their food, leftovers, are actually doing the correct thing rather than take risks with little understood storage and re-heating procedures.

You should have lived during WW2 if you threw any food away you went hungry everything edible was eaten no fridges either leftovers where made into something to eat Even sour milk could be used in various ways WASTE NOT WANT NOT we now live in a throw away world don’t want it throw it some people are starving and cannot afford to eat remember that

Sometimes I wonder if the obsession with food hygiene is actually counter productive, We live in a pretty sterile environment these days as far as food is concerned and rarely encounter harmful bacteria, but when we do we fall ill easily. Our bodies do not develop any immunity to infections at all.
Sure some bacteria are very dangerous but having suffered food poisoning just once in my 65 years, I’m a firm believer in being careful but not obsessive and anyway, most kitchen cleaners only remove 99% of bacteria, one has to wonder if firstly this process is encouraging bacteria to develop resistance to such cleaners and secondly if those cleaners can’t kill those bacteria does that mean that the ones that survive represent the largest danger to us?

my mother always said “a little bit of dirt does nobody any harm but does you good by slowly building up immunity against the big nastys that are around ” todays thing about keeping things cleaner than clean means people have no immunity at all to fight back when a big nasty hits and succumb to them very quickly I have followed her advice all my life and cannot recall ever having a stomach bug ever some of the things I do horrify many people Again being told what to do by “experts “EXPERTS ???

The majority of the immune system is contained in the gut bishbut and over time you can develop problems in the small intestine with a sensitivity to certain proteins in foods that can prevent nutrition from that food entering the bloodstream (leaky gut syndrome) exposing you to various toxins and diseases, some quite serious if not treated when symptoms present.

Loving this topic. Picked up a few tricks and hopefully given back a few.

Thanks for joining us 🙂 You’ve definitely taught me a trick about the eggs in water. Will give that a go next time I have eggs!

Geoff Ogle ? who is he ? A man with the correct piece of paper with a job at the Food Standard Agency ? .Expert in WHAT ?

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I had not realised that the FSA was to end independent meat inspections but suspect that this is part of the ‘Regulating our Future’ initiative that I have mentioned several times: https://www.food.gov.uk/about-us/regulating-our-future. Sorry, but I do not trust business enough to leave it in charge of food safety.

For food prepared in fast food restaurants and such like, I think the duty of inspections falls to local authorities…


So the removal of FSA meat inspections may make it harder for local inspectors to work effectively – but doesn’t mean that inspections will cease.

Presumably the e.coli case referenced above happened in spite of extant inspection arrangements. Hence, as those arrangements failed to prevent that case, it’s not exactly a great testament to their efficacy.

From an “instant internet expert” (IIE) viewpoint, it seems that good sake kitchen practices are one of the main defences against e.coli:


I note that the above also expects consumers to take responsibility for some of those risk reduction measures.

Meat inspection helps to ensure that meat that is unfit for human consumption does not end on our plates. Unfortunately food hygiene inspections cannot establish whether meat is safe to eat.

I would be interested to know whether food hygiene is taught in school. If not it might be worth doing.

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Thanks Duncan. The government document is really quite encouraging, though I wonder what happens in practice. Next time I’m speaking to teenagers and young adults I will try to collect some information. It’s easy to become divorced from what goes on in schools if you don’t have kids of your own.

wavechange says: Today 13:06
I would be interested to know whether food hygiene is taught in school

The short answer is it depends. It isn’t a part of the National Curriculum (NC) after KS3 (key stage 3) and prior to that it has what can best be described as a marginal role.

Now, it can be taught (and should be taught, IMV) as an integral aspect of Biology, which forms part of the Science core in all KS areas, but what used to be called ‘Domestic Science’ has been subsumed into Design and Technology, and even there it is offered only as an option in KS4. So, briefly, at the time when it’s most valuable to children it’s not compulsory.

One problem that faces all Secondary schools however, is resourcing the compulsory subject range; for KS3 the following are compulsory:

modern foreign languages
design and technology
art and design
physical education

in addition to which Schools must provide religious education (RE) and sex education from key stage 3 but parents can ask for their children to be taken out of the whole lesson or part of it. Thus parents are allowed to withdraw their children from one of the more valuable lessons.

If you do the maths you can see what schools are being expected to provide with diminishing resources and enhanced expectations is verging on the absurd. But a lot of the damage was done during the years when the egregious Thatcher Government thought it knew what was needed and further damage when, in Secondary schools, subject specialists resisted integrated science-based courses.

Splitting education into the discrete areas promoted by the NC can be viewed as a serious mistake, since knowledge itself isn’t acquired or delivered discretely outside of the classroom. Of course, as children become older it makes some sense to start to study aspects of subjects, so studying Maths and Physics separately can have some limited advantages. But no study of Geography, for instance, without a commensurate study of history is valid, and at the end of the day all science is effectively Physics.

We don’t learn, either; the UK is still 15th in the world for science teaching, well behind Canada, Estonia and Finland and that’s our best position. In maths, the UK is ranked 27th,and in reading, the UK is ranked 22nd. You’d have thought by now even the Government would have worked out something is wrong.

Thanks Ian. I must try and gain an insight into the depth subjects are covered prior to A-level. Incidentally I have always been strongly opposed to teaching subjects in isolation and one of my hobby horses when teaching in universities was to investigate what my students had been taught and where their knowledge and understanding came from.

Looking through the government document mentioned above there is a section on consumer issues: 8. Applying aspects of consumer awareness (food origin, food choice, food labelling)

There is, but that document is only advisory, non-compulsory, lists aims rather than objectives and, in the section to which you refer, has virtually nothing about food hygiene. Sec (9) does include hygiene, but it’s almost included as an afterthought and, of course, the entire document only concerns teaching technique in primary education.

Secondary education isn’t doing at all well, even by the most optimistic measures.