/ Food & Drink, Health

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

Loading ... Loading ...

Meat well within its sell-by date can smell off, so I always sniff it when I open the packet, whether it is pre-packed or just brought back from the butcher. If it doesn’t smell fresh, it goes back, simple as that.

Never heard of people thinking they can smell bugs though.

I also put covered tins in the fridge but do think they should be used by the next day.


I know what you mean, Alfa, and I occasionally dispose of meat that does not smell right. It might be due to chemical changes, harmless bugs or dangerous ones but with no way of knowing the best option is not to use it.


When I make soup or a casserole I often divide it into portions and put some in the freezer and some in the fridge as soon as they have cooled to room temperature. What goes in the fridge is thoroughly heated the next day. If there is a surplus, the food is allowed to cool and thoroughly heated the next day. That means that it has been reheated twice.

I don’t see any risk in what I do because I take care to reheat food thoroughly. Reheating food in a microwave at full power and failing to stir it is a recipe for inadequate reheating. Though I think the advice about reheating twice is flawed it’s probably useful advice.


I once had a flatmate who would cook up a pan of mince. Then for the rest of the week, he would add something to it, heat it all up, take out a portion, let it cool down then repeat.

I was always surprised he didn’t get ill.


Many years ago, a friend used to make a large pan of soup in a pressure cooker and reheat what remained thoroughly each day for about five days. I was not impressed but because it was reheated thoroughly I don’t think there was a problem. He was a microbiologist and knew that bacterial spores can be killed in a pressure cooker. Boiling food can activate spores, so they can start to grow when the temperature falls below 50°C or so. Electricians and others do all sorts of things that are inadvisable but don’t come to grief because they understand what they are doing.


Could there be a prion issue?


Cooking does not destroy prions, so I can’t see how reheating would be relevant. It’s fascinating that prions are proteins yet not denatured by heat.


Do they succumb at any temperature?


I don’t know but denaturation of proteins depends on pH and ionic strength, so any figures that don’t mention the conditions might not be useful. I think you will find something in the