Tests have shown that a large proportion of the UK population do not wash their hands after using the toilet. Thus bacteria such as the new lethal strain of E. Coli could be on their hands. When they handle money, they can transfer the bacteria to that, and it can survive for up to 48 hours on the money. Most vendors of take-away foods do not have a single person dedicated to handling the money. Any food seller who handles the money can transfer the contamination to the food if they handle it without using a glove or washing their hands (this is especially common at places which sell sandwiches, kebabs or falafels, hot dogs, or burgers.). Even at places where they avoid handling the food itself, they do things such as gripping the food lid on both sides before pressing it down on the food & sealing the container. This contaminates the food. Warm, moist food provides ideal conditions for the bacteria to multiply and infect people.
The person I spoke to at the Food Standards Agency said that inspections by Environmental Health Officers would catch such practises. However I have been unable to find any place selling take-away food in London which DOESN’T ignore the food hygiene regulations.
The news media should have taken this opportunity to warn the population of the danger, but they have not. This week You And Yours, the flagship consumer affairs program on Radio 4, lauded the increase in the availability and variety of “street food”. This was a plug for a book on the subject, and failed to mention the danger from lax hygiene. Government agencies which are supposed to warn people of health dangers also failed to seize the opportunity. On the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, the head of the Health Protection Agency assured people that E. Coli would not be a problem in this country, and that people should “continue with their normal hygiene regime”. If food vendors do that, we are headed for a potential disaster.
Many experts have been warning for decades that it’s only a matter of time before all anti-biotics are rendered useless by the spread of anti-biotic resistance. NDM-1 antibiotic resistance is already established in the general population of Delhi, and seems certain to spread further. We should not wait for lax hygiene to cause a major outbreak of disease in this country. People should be warned of the dangers. The food hygiene laws also need to be rigorously enforced. That required more inspectors and more prosecutions.