Food Poisoning 'Timebomb' Alert as Firms Cut Back on Safety Training; ECONOMIC SITUATION MAY SEE COMPANIES TAKING A CHANCE

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Byline: ABBY ALFORD

WALES faces a food poisoning timebomb as businesses cut safety training to save money, a public health expert warned last night.

Julie Barratt, director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Wales, said companies are failing to send food handlers on courses that would teach them the skills that could prevent outbreaks.

She issued her stark message after a survey of 5,000 Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) trainers revealed that half thought the uptake of food safety training by food businesses was being negatively affected by the present economic climate.

Around 70% identified "cost cutting" as the main reason why businesses were not investing in training.

Through basic safety training food handlers learn the importance of separating raw and cooked meat to prevent cross contamination, washing their hands and keeping surfaces and equipment clean.

Ms Barratt said: "This survey is cause for concern and if this trend continues public health could be put at risk - potentially triggering a food poisoning time bomb.

"Proper instruction or training of food handlers in food hygiene is a legal obligation and businesses must ensure that their staff have the skills to ensure the health and wellbeing of the customers they serve.

"The economic downturn has meant many businesses have had to rein in spending, which is understandable, but quality training needs to be seen as an investment which protects your staff, your business and your company's reputation. A food poisoning outbreak can be the death knell for a food business and can have a myriad of consequences from reputational damage to business failure.

"In extreme cases failure to comply with food safety legislation can even result in a prison sentence and/or being prohibited from running a food business in future. In over a quarter of the prosecutions which have led to the business manager being prohibited since January 2009, failure to comply with the legislation on instruction and/or training was one of the offences. …