HL Deb 06 March 2002 vol 632 cc20-1WA
The Countess of Mar

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many cases of food poisoning have been reported by the Food Standards Agency since its inception; and how these figures were derived. [HL2869]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Estimates of the number of cases of food poisoning published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have been derived from different sources and are explained in the following paragraphs. It is not possible to provide a definitive figure.

Estimates of the number of cases of food poisoning quoted in the advertising for the FSA's Food Hygiene Campaign (up to 4.5 million a year) are taken from a large scale government funded survey (1994–95) of infectious intestinal disease (IID), which reported 9.4 million cases. On the basis of organisms identified from laboratory testing, the proportion of the 9.4 million IID cases that may have been transmitted by food was estimated to be between 17 per cent and 50 per cent. The figure "up to 4.5 million" represents about 50 per cent of the 9.4 million IID cases.

The 2001 FSA Consumer Attitudes to Food Survey of people over 16 years of age was published on 11 February 2002. This nationally representative survey revealed that 12 per cent of those interviewed claimed to have experienced diarrhoea and/or vomiting attributed to food eaten in the United Kingdom in 2001. The FSA estimated that in the 16 and over age group this would correspond to about 5.5 million cases of food poisoning in 2001. These are calculated by multiplying the percentage of respondents who said they had experienced food poisoning in the last year by the most recent figure provided by the Office of National Statistics for the UK population aged 16 years and over.

The FSA has set a target to reduce the number of cases of food poisoning in the UK by 20 per cent by 2006. Because there is no definitive figure for the number of cases of food poisoning, the FSA has taken the collated laboratory reports in 2000 for five key food poisoning organisms (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli 0157 and Clostridium perfringens) as the baseline for its target. Although this figure (65,253) is small relative to the other estimates of food poisoning, it is considered to provide a consistent basis for monitoring progress towards the target.

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