British researchers report that barbecues and dinner parties are the most common source of food poisoning in the home. Researchers at the UK government's Public Health Laboratory Service said the results show the risks of infection are highest when people are catering for larger groups than usual. They suspect that people are rushing and dealing with larger volumes of food than they are used to and they may not have the physical storage capacity to keep that volume of food.
To assess whether there had been any substantial change in the causes and incidence of domestic gut infections during the 1990s, the researchers analysed data for all outbreaks of intestinal infectious disease over a 7-year period in England and Wales.
In 85% of the cases, food was the cause of illness, with person-to-person transmission and waterborne infection accounting for the rest. The average number of people affected was 20. Three out of four cases involved salmonella and the most common foods implicated in the outbreaks were poultry, desserts containing raw eggs and egg-based dishes. Contamination usually occurred through inappropriate storage, inadequate cooking and the accidental transfer of bacteria in the kitchen.
The good news though -- the number of outbreaks linked with home infection dropped from around 45 to 25 a year between 1992 and 1999.
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