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New Effort To Promote Food Safety In The Home

With the summer food poisoning 'season' just around the corner, a national supermarket chain has begun a campaign to help Kiwis avoid food borne illness in the home.

Last year there were more than 10,000 reported cases of food poisoning in New Zealand. Food poisoning occurs when 'bugs' or germs contaminate food that is then consumed.

Food-borne illnesses have contributed to the deaths of 18 people since 1997 and every year in New Zealand more than 400 people are admitted to hospital with the complaint.

Reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg, however. It is suggested there could be up to 120,000 cases a year, the majority unreported and many occurring in the home.

The Medical Journal reported in July that the cost to the country of food poisoning was about $55 million a year.

Now the Woolworths and Big Fresh supermarket chains have launched an initiative to raise the profile of the problem and draw attention to prevention methods.

Called Food Safety First, the Woolworths programme launched today (Thursday December 7, 2000) comprises a wide range of elements.

The company has produced a television commercial and educational posters, a brochure and stickers and badges are in every one of the 65 Woolworths and Big Fresh stores nation-wide.

Woolworths has also produced a video and is making presentations about Food Safety First to its staff nation-wide.

Food businesses have two options. They can either comply with the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974 or implement a food safety programme based on a system known as HACCP ó hazard analysis critical control point.

Chief executive officer Andrew Davidson says his company has recently completed the HACCP programme.

"We are now as sure as anyone can be that every food item that leaves every one of our 65 Woolworths and Big Fresh supermarkets nation-wide is safe.

"However, once the food leaves our premises, we are unable to vouch for its safety. So we are now launching the Food Safety First programme which is designed to show Kiwis how they can avoid problems when food is in transit and in their homes."

The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programme undertaken by Woolworths was developed by America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to protect its astronauts from food poisoning.

Mr Davidson says the existing food hygiene regulations are 25 years old and out of date as they concentrate on the premises rather than on food preparation.

Ministry of Health Food Manager Jim Sim says HACCP is all about identifying food safety hazards and ensuring they are systematically controlled.

"There can be no reasoned expectation of safe food unless food is produced under a HACCP based regime.

"Woolworths is to be congratulated for becoming the first company to have all its stores implement an approved HACCP based Food Safety Programme," Mr Sim said. "It shows their commitment to improved food safety in New Zealand."

Minister of Health Hon. Annette King says she is delighted with the support Woolworths is providing through its Food Safety First programme.

"It is so important to spread the message about food safety. Education is the best method of prevention, especially as we head into summer.

"I applaud Woolworths for their efforts in helping to empower people with the knowledge and information they need to keep their homes safe," Mrs King said.

Woolworths' Food Safety First programme covers a range of topics. They include reasons why food safety is important, identification of high-risk foods and food handling tips on how to avoid problems.

Mr Davidson says the onset of warmer weather and the consequent increase in the number of barbecue meals and outdoor eating provides ideal conditions for food-related problems to occur.

"There are some basic and easy rules to follow that go a long way to ensuring safe eating for all the family," Mr Davidson said.

"The material we have produced is designed to identify trouble spots and provide householders with simple methods of avoiding problems."

ends

Issued for Woolworths NZ Limited by 141 New Zealand

Contacts:

Des Flynn Jim Sim Michelle Cruickshank Dir. of Strategic Bus. Dev. Food Manager Account Manager Woolworth's (NZ) Limited Ministry of Health 141 New Zealand Tel: 0-9-262 0772 0-4-496 2000 0-9-979 7768 Mob: 025-717 216 021-500 472

David Paine, Senior Writer, 141 New Zealand D/d +64-9-979 7770 Tel +64-9-979 7720 Fax +64-9-979 7730 email david@141nz.co.nz Home e-mail wordforword@zfree.co.nz or longboarder@surfer.co.nz


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