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Food safety

Introduction

The UK has more than 850,000 reported cases of people experiencing food poisoning a year, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

10 ways to prevent food poisoning

If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you’ll know how unpleasant it can be, even for a fit and healthy person. Sometimes food poisoning can cause serious illness and death.

Most people assume that food poisoning comes from restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets but, according to the FSA, you’re just as likely to get ill from food prepared at home.

“People don't like to admit that the germs might have come from their own home,” says Dr Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the FSA. But it's a common myth to think that food poisoning only comes from a dodgy takeaway.

Follow these tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home:

1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and dry them before handling food and after handling raw meat, going to the toilet, blowing your nose or touching animals (including pets).

2. Wash worktops before and after preparing food, particularly after they've been touched by raw meat, including poultry or raw eggs. You don’t need to use anti-bacterial sprays. Hot soapy water is fine.

3. Wash dishcloths and tea towels regularly and let them dry before you use them again. Dirty, damp cloths are the perfect place for bacteria to breed.

4. Use separate chopping boards for raw meat and for ready-to-eat food. Raw meat contains harmful bacteria that can spread very easily to anything it touches, including other foods, worktops, chopping boards and knives.

5. It's especially important to keep raw meat away from ready-to-eat foods such as salad, fruit and bread. This is because these foods won't be cooked before you eat them, so any bacteria that gets on to the foods won't be killed.

6. Always cover raw meat and store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge where it can't touch other foods or drip on to them.

7. Cook food thoroughly and check that it’s piping hot all the way through. Make sure poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs are cooked until steaming hot, with no pink meat inside.

8. Keep your fridge temperature below 5C. By keeping food cold, you stop food poisoning bugs growing.

9. If you have cooked food that you're not going to eat straight away, cool it as quickly as possible (within 90 minutes) and store it in the fridge or freezer. Use any leftovers from the fridge within two days.

10. Don’t eat food that's past its "use by" date label. These are based on scientific tests that show how quickly harmful bugs can develop in the packaged food.

Find out more on food poisoning in A-Z.

Beware of common household germs

It’s not possible or even desirable to rid the home of all germs and other microbes.

Micro-organisms are vital to humans and the environment, but some are harmful to us. These are commonly referred to as germs. "Germ" is a catch-all term for these invisible organisms, mainly bacteria, fungi and viruses, which cause disease.

To protect you and your family from germs, hygiene experts say you should focus your cleaning efforts on germ hotspots, such as cleaning cloths, sponges and chopping boards, in the home. Find out how to prevent germs from spreading.

Germs mainly enter the home on people, food and pets. Once they're in, they can spread from person to person, or from person to surface and back again (cross-contamination).

Common germs found in the home are:

  • MRSA (meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus): this is a strain of the common Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. It’s resistant to many antibiotics, making the infections it causes difficult to treat. Washing hands with soap and hot water is the most effective way to prevent it spreading.
  • E. coli 0157: a more dangerous strain of the common E. coli bacterium usually found in the gut of all healthy humans. It can cause severe intestinal illness. Pay careful attention to hygiene around food and around the toilet, especially if someone has diarrhoea.
  • Norovirus: also known as the winter vomiting bug. Norovirus is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis in England. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after preparing food and before eating, and especially after using the toilet.
  • Clostridium difficile: also known as C. diff. This is a bacterium found in the gut of less than 5% of healthy adults. It does not cause any harm to healthy people because of the balance of "good" bacteria in the gut. It's common in the intestine of babies and infants, but does not cause disease because its poisons do not damage their immature intestinal cells. A C. diff infection can cause diarrhoea, which can range from a mild disturbance to a very severe illness, with ulceration and bleeding from the colon and, at worst, perforation of the intestine, leading to peritonitis. It can be fatal. Make sure hands are thoroughly washed before and after preparing food, and especially after going to the toilet.

Many of these germs are caught in the home. According to a World Health Organization report in 2003, about 40% of reported food-related outbreaks of infection in Europe occur in the home.

Microbiologist Professor Sally Bloomfield, of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH), says that home hygiene does not mean being obsessive about deep cleaning our homes. “Our routine daily or weekly cleaning habits actually have little effect in reducing our exposure to harmful microbes.”

She says most germs are spread on the hands and surfaces that come into contact with hands, cleaning cloths and utensils.

Bloomfield says focussing on germ hotspots is more effective at preventing germs spreading than a “once-weekly deep clean”. 

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Food Storage

Proper storage of food reduces the risk of food poisoning. Follow these tips to ensure your food is always safe to eat.

Fridge storage

Some foods need to be kept in the fridge to help stop bacteria growing. These include foods with a "use by" date, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods such as desserts and cooked meats.

Here's how to prevent bacteria from growing:

  • Keep your fridge temperature below 5C.
  • When preparing food, keep it out of the fridge for the shortest time possible.
  • If you’re having a buffet, keep the food refrigerated until you’re ready to serve it.
  • Cool leftovers as quickly as possible (within 90 minutes) and store them in the fridge. Eat them within two days.
  • Store eggs in their box in the fridge.
  • Never put open cans in the fridge as the metal of the can may transfer to the can's contents. Transfer the contents into a storage container or covered bowl.

“Make sure food has cooled down before you put it in the fridge,” says Philippa Hudson, senior lecturer in food safety at Bournemouth University.

“If the food is still hot it will raise the temperature in the fridge, which isn’t safe as it can promote bacterial growth.”

To ensure your fridge remains hygienic and in good working condition, clean it regularly.

“Food debris accumulates over time and can increase the risk of cross-contamination,” says Hudson.

 'Best before' and 'use by'
  • Food with a 'use by' date goes off quite quickly. It can be dangerous to eat after this date.
  • Food with a 'best before' date is longer-lasting. It should be safe to eat but may not be at its best quality after this date.

'Use by' dates

No food lasts forever, however well it is stored. Most pre-packed foods carry either a 'use by' or 'best before' date.

  • 'Use by' dates appear on foods that go off quite quickly. It can be dangerous to eat foods past this date.
  • 'Best before' dates are for foods with a longer life. They show how long the food will be at its best quality.

“Food can look and smell fine even after its use-by date,” says Hudson. “But that doesn’t mean that it's safe to eat. It could still be contaminated.”

Storing meat

It's especially important to store meat safely in the fridge to stop bacteria from spreading and avoid food poisoning.

  • Store raw meat and poultry in clean, sealed containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge, so they can't touch or drip onto other food.
  • Follow any storage instructions on the label and don't eat meat after its use-by date.
  • Keep cooked meat separate from raw meat.

Freezing and defrosting

It’s safe to freeze meat and fish as long as you:

  • Freeze it before the use-by date.
  • Defrost meat and fish thoroughly before cooking. Lots of liquid will come out as meat thaws, so stand it in a bowl to stop bacteria in the juice spreading to other things.
  • Defrost in a microwave if you intend to cook straightaway. Otherwise, put it in the fridge to thaw so that it doesn't get too warm.
  • Cook food until it's piping hot all the way through.

“Make sure the meat is properly wrapped in the freezer or it might get freezer burn, which will make it tough and inedible,” says Hudson.

“Date and label meat in the freezer and eat it within 24 hours of defrosting. Don't keep food in a freezer indefinitely. Always have a good idea of what’s in your fridge and freezer.”

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Kitchen hygiene

Find out how good home hygiene can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as MRSA, E. coli and Clostridium difficile.

Advances in vaccination and antibiotic treatment have made people complacent about hygiene, say public health experts.

This is especially true in the home, where there has been a tendency to assume, wrongly, that the risk of infection is low.

But scare stories in recent years about SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), avian flu, food poisoning, the winter vomiting bug (norovirus) and hospital-acquired infections (MRSA and Clostridium difficile) have made hygiene a concern.

Experience has also shown that as soon as one infectious disease is brought under control, another emerges.

Despite predictions by experts, antibiotics have not brought an end to infectious diseases. The emergence of infections such as MRSA (meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and Clostridium difficile is blamed on the use and misuse of antibiotics, both inside and outside hospitals.

Microbiologist Professor Sally Bloomfield, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says that good hygiene practices are the way to tackle antibiotic resistance.

Good hygiene habits means fewer infections, fewer patients needing antibiotics and fewer diseases.

Healthcare workers now realise that the home has a critical role in the fight against infectious diseases. There are simple things we can all do to make a difference.

“What we do at home is hugely important,” says Bloomfield. "If we can prevent the spread of infections in the household through good hygiene, we can prevent them spreading into the wider community and into hospitals.

"If you go into hospital for surgery, the person you're most likely to get infected from is yourself. Therefore, it makes sense to protect yourself and your family from exposure to germs such as MRSA at home so that you don’t become a carrier.

“The home is the place we have control of, where individuals can make a difference in reducing the spread of infection.”

Poor standards

However, research has shown that two-thirds of Britons don’t follow basic hygiene and men are the worst offenders.

A 2007 survey by the Hygiene Council found that many people don't wash their hands after using the toilet, before they prepare food or after coughing and sneezing.

Nearly a quarter of the population handles food after stroking their pets without using any disinfectant first.

Virologist John Oxford, chairman of the Hygiene Council and Professor of Virology at Barts and The London, says people don't think of the home as a source of infection.

“They see the home as "safe", but in fact it's a place where you can get infected,” he says. “Most people have no idea how critical the simple act of washing their hands is in preventing the spread of infection.”

Tackling the spread of infectious diseases in the home involves focusing on germ hotspots to eliminate bacteria, wherever and whenever there’s a risk of them spreading and causing infection.

"It doesn't mean you have to sterilise the whole home," says Bloomfield. It has been suggested that over-zealous cleaning may have caused the rise of allergies in recent years. Bloomfield says that although research suggests exposure to microbes in early childhood builds a balanced immune system, there’s no evidence that we need exposure to harmful germs or to suffer infections.

There is no proven link between hygiene measures, such as hand washing and food hygiene, and the increase in allergies.

“The idea that dirt is ‘good’ and hygiene somehow ‘unnatural’ has been popularised in the media,” says Bloomfield.

“This idea has had a negative impact on the public’s perception of infectious disease risks in the home and the importance of using hygiene measures to control such risks.”

How to prevent germs from spreading

Germs can be passed from person to person or indirectly by touching unclean equipment or surfaces.

Cleanliness experts say hygienic cleaning will help prevent germs spreading in the home.

Hygienic cleaning involves focussing your efforts on areas in the house where germs are likely to spread and cause infection.

Use either soap and hot water (rinsing the germs away) or a disinfectant to kill the germs. Thoroughly dry surfaces after cleaning. Dampness helps any remaining germs to survive and, if there's enough water, multiply.

“Good hygiene is not a ‘once-weekly, deep-down clean’,” says Professor Sally Bloomfield, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Hygienic cleaning needs to be an ongoing part of our daily lives, where hygiene measures are targeted where and when necessary.”

She says that cleaning aids, such as cloths or mops, must be germ-free or they'll spread germs to other surfaces. Germs can multiply easily. Within eight hours, one bacterium on a damp cloth can multiply to six million. Germs stick to cloths and are difficult to remove by rinsing, so all cleaning materials should be disinfected and then dried after use.

Below are some general hygiene tips to minimise the spread of germs in the home:

Cloths and sponges

  • Use disposable cloths or paper towels when possible.
  • Reusable cloths should be disinfected after each use.

Washing-up brushes

  • Wash brushes in a dishwasher regularly or clean with detergent and warm water after each use.

Mops and buckets

  • Use two buckets for mopping – one for detergent and the other for rinsing.
  • Mops and buckets should be cleaned, disinfected and dried after each use.

Lavatories

  • Keep the U-bend and lavatory bowl clean by flushing after each use.
  • Use a lavatory cleaner and brush every few days.
  • Limescale should be regularly removed using a descaling product.
  • Keep the lavatory seat, handle and rim clean by using a disinfectant.

Baths and sinks

  • Hygienically clean baths and sinks frequently.
  • Use disinfectant if they’ve been used by someone who is ill.

Showers

  • Clean shower trays as above for baths and sinks.
  • If a shower hasn't been used for a long period, let it run with hot water before using it.

Tiles and shower curtains

  • Keep tiles and grout in good condition and clean them often.
  • Hygienically clean or launder the shower curtain frequently, depending on how often it's used.

Kitchen

  • Ensure food preparation surfaces are hygienically clean.
  • Use separate chopping boards for meat (including fish and poultry) and vegetables.
  • Wash and dry your hands after handling high-risk foods such as raw meat.
  • Hygienically clean surfaces immediately after use.

Floors

  • Clean floors regularly to remove visible dirt with warm water and detergent.
  • If soiled with vomit or excreta, the floor should be cleaned using a disposable cloth and warm water and then disinfected. Ensure the floor is dry before allowing children on it.

Carpet and soft furnishings

  • Periodically clean carpets and soft furnishings using a suitable product.
  • Carpets and furnishings can be hygienically cleaned by steam cleaning.
  • Curtains can be cleaned by laundering or disinfected by steam cleaning.

Pets and other animals

  • Keep pet food separate from human food.
  • Always wash your hands after touching animals, their food, toys, cages and litter trays.
  • Dishes, utensils and tin openers used for pet food should be stored separately.

Toys

  • Clean hard or plastic toys by washing them and storing them once they're clean and dry.
  • Some soft toys can be cleaned in the washing machine.
  • All toys and equipment should be added to a regular cleaning rota.

Laundry

  • Wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
  • To prevent the spread of germs, all underwear, towels and household linen should be washed at 60C (140F) or at 40C (104F) with a bleach-based laundry product.
  • Run the washing machine on empty once a week, either at a high temperature or with a chemical disinfectant to prevent the growth of germs.
  • Don’t leave laundry in the washing machine as any remaining germs can multiply rapidly.

Waste disposal

  • Foot-operated bins are better for hygiene because they reduce the risk of hands picking up germs when they touch the bin lid.
  • Always wash your hands after handling waste material.
  • Throw rubbish away carefully to avoid attracting vermin and insects.
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Food preparation

Barbecue food safety

Food poisoning cases double over the summer, so remember these simple steps to help keep food safe.

Food poisoning is usually mild, and most people get better within a week. But sometimes it can be more severe, even deadly, so it’s important to take the risks seriously. Children, older people and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning.

"The safest option is to cook food indoors using your oven," says a spokesperson from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). "You can then put the cooked food outside on the barbecue for flavour." This can be an easier option if you're cooking for a lot of people at the same time.

If cooking only on the barbecue, the two main risk factors are: 

  • undercooked meat
  • spreading germs from raw meat onto food that’s ready to eat

This is because raw or undercooked meat can contain germs that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, E.coli and campylobacter. However, these germs can be killed by cooking meat until it is piping hot throughout. 

Germs from raw meat can move easily onto your hands, and then onto anything else you touch, such as food that is cooked and ready to eat.

Cooking meat on a barbecue

When you’re cooking any kind of meat on a barbecue, such as poultry (chicken or turkey), pork, steak, burgers or sausages, make sure:

  • The coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking, as this means that they're hot enough.
  • Frozen meat is properly thawed before you cook it.
  • You turn the meat regularly and move it around the barbecue to cook it evenly.

Remember that meat is safe to eat only when:

  • It is piping hot in the centre. 
  • There is no pink meat visible.
  • Any juices are clear.

"Don’t assume that because meat is charred on the outside it will be cooked properly on the inside," says the FSA spokesperson. "Cut the meat at the thickest part and ensure none of it is pink on the inside."

Some meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare (not cooked in the middle) as long as the outside has been properly cooked. This will kill any bacteria that might be on the outside of the meat. However, food made from minced meat, such as sausages and burgers, must be cooked thoroughly all the way through.

Raw meat

Germs from raw meat can move easily onto your hands and then anything else you touch, including food that is cooked and ready to eat. This is called cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination can happen if raw meat touches anything (including plates, cutlery, tongs and chopping boards) that then comes into contact with other food.

Some easy steps to help prevent cross-contamination are: 

  • Always wash your hands after touching raw meat.
  • Use separate utensils (plates, tongs, containers) for cooked and raw meat.
  • Never put cooked food on a plate or surface that has had raw meat on it.
  • Keep raw meat in a sealed container away from foods that are ready to eat, such as salads and buns. 
  • Don’t put raw meat next to cooked or partly cooked meat on the barbecue.
  • Don’t put sauce or marinade on cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat.

Keeping food cool

It’s also important to keep some foods cool to prevent food-poisoning germs multiplying.

Make sure you keep the following foods cool: 

  • salads
  • dips
  • milk, cream, yoghurt
  • desserts and cream cakes
  • sandwiches 
  • ham and other cooked meats
  • cooked rice, including rice salads

Don’t leave food out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours, and don’t leave food in the sun.

Fire safety

Make sure your barbecue is steady on a level surface, away from plants and trees. 

The Fire Service advises covering the bottom of your barbecue with coal to a depth of no more than 5cm (2in). Use only recognised firelighters or starter fuel, and then only on cold coals.

Never use petrol on a barbecue.

Cooking turkey

Cook the perfect Christmas turkey with our tips on defrosting and cooking poultry safely and storing leftovers.

Preparing the turkey

Keep the uncooked turkey away from food that's ready to eat. If raw poultry, or other raw meat, touches or drips onto these foods, bacteria will spread and may cause food poisoning.

Bacteria can spread from raw meat and poultry to worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils. To keep your Christmas food safe, remember the following things:

  • After touching raw poultry or other raw meat, always wash your hands with warm water and soap, and dry them thoroughly.
  • There's no need to wash your turkey before your cook it. If you do, bacteria from raw poultry can splash onto worktops, dishes and other foods. Proper cooking will kill any bacteria.
  • Always clean worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils thoroughly after they have touched raw poultry or meat.
  • Never use the same chopping board for raw poultry or meat and ready-to-eat food without washing it thoroughly in warm soapy water. If possible, use a separate chopping board just for raw meat and poultry. 

Defrosting your turkey

If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure that the turkey is properly defrosted before cooking it. If it's still partially frozen, it may not cook evenly, which means that harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process.

Defrosting checklist:

  • Work out defrosting time in advance, so you know how much time to allow – it can take at least a couple of days for a large turkey to thaw.
  • When you start defrosting, take the turkey out of its packaging, put it on a large dish and cover. The dish will hold the liquid that comes out of the thawing turkey.
  • Remove the giblets and the neck as soon as possible to speed up the thawing process. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey, giblets or any other raw meat.
  • Before cooking, make sure there aren't any ice crystals in the cavity. Test the thicker parts of the turkey with a fork to tell whether the meat feels frozen.
  • Turkey (and any other poultry) is best defrosted in a covered dish at the bottom of the fridge so that it can't drip onto other foods.
  • Pour away the liquid that comes out of the defrosting turkey regularly to stop it overflowing and spreading bacteria. Be careful not to splash the liquid onto worktops, dishes, cloths or other food.
  • If the bird is too big for the fridge, put it somewhere out of reach from animals and children, and where it won't touch other foods. For example, a cool room, shed or garage.
  • If you’re not using the fridge, watch out for sudden changes in room temperature as they could prevent the turkey from thawing evenly.

Defrosting times

To work out the defrosting time for your turkey, check the packaging for any guidance first. If there aren't any defrosting instructions, use the following times to work out roughly how long it will take to thaw your turkey.

  • In a fridge at 4ºC (39ºF), allow about 10 to 12 hours per kg, but remember that not all fridges will be this temperature.
  • In a cool room (below 17.5ºC, 64ºF), allow approximately three to four hours per kg, or longer if the room is particularly cold.
  • At room temperature (about 20ºC, 68ºF) allow approximately two hours per kg.

When your turkey is fully defrosted, put it in the fridge until you're ready to cook it. If this isn't possible, make sure you cook it immediately.

Cooking the turkey

Plan your cooking time in advance to make sure you get the bird in the oven early enough to cook it thoroughly. A large turkey can take several hours to cook properly. Eating undercooked turkey (or other poultry) could cause food poisoning.

Three ways to tell if the turkey is cooked:

  • The meat should be steaming hot all the way through.
  • When you cut into the thickest part of the meat, none of the meat should be pink.
  • If juices flow out when you pierce the turkey or when you press the thigh, they should be clear.

If you’re using a temperature probe or food thermometer, ensure that the thickest part of the bird (between the breast and the thigh) reaches at least 70°C for two minutes.

Cooking times

The cooking times below are based on an unstuffed bird. It's better to cook your stuffing in a separate roasting tin, rather than inside the bird so that it will cook more easily and the cooking guidelines will be more accurate.

If you cook your bird with the stuffing inside, you need to allow extra time for the stuffing and for the fact that it cooks more slowly.

Some ovens, such as fan-assisted ovens, might cook the bird more quickly – check the guidance on the packaging and the manufacturer's handbook for your oven if you can.

As a general guide, in an oven preheated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4):

  • Allow 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes for a turkey under 4.5kg.
  • Allow 40 minutes per kg for a turkey that's between 4.5kg and 6.5kg.
  • Allow 35 minutes per kg for a turkey of more than 6.5kg.

Cover your turkey with foil during cooking and uncover for the last 30 minutes to brown the skin. To stop the meat drying out, baste it every hour during cooking.

Cooking times for other birds

Other birds, such as goose and duck, need different cooking times and temperatures. The oven should always be hotter for duck and goose in order to melt the fat under the skin.

  • Goose should be cooked in a preheated oven at 200ºC/425ºF/Gas Mark 7 for 35 minutes per kg.  
  • Duck should be cooked in a preheated oven for 45 minutes per kg at 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6. 
  • Chicken should be cooked in a preheated oven at 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 for 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes.

Storing leftovers

Keep cooked meat and poultry in the fridge. If they are left out at room temperature, food poisoning bacteria can grow and multiply.

After you’ve feasted on the turkey, cool any leftovers as quickly as possible (within one or two hours), cover them and put them in the fridge. Ideally, try to use up leftovers within 48 hours.

When you're serving cold turkey, take out only as much as you're going to use and put the rest back in the fridge. Don't leave a plate of turkey or cold meats out all day, for example, on a buffet.

If you're reheating leftover turkey or other food, always make sure it's steaming hot all the way through before you eat it. Don't reheat more than once. Ideally, use leftovers within 48 hours.

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Risks

Food and hygiene facts

People, pets and food are the main carriers of germs into the home. Once in, germs can get everywhere.

Here's the truth about germs in your home, including some facts you didn't know but will be glad you read.

Kitchen sink squalor

Although the kitchen sink contains 100,000 times more germs than a bathroom or lavatory, most people think of the toilet as the most contaminated part of the house.

Don’t forget your toothbrush

When you flush, germs from the toilet bowl can travel as far as six feet, landing on the floor, the sink and your toothbrush. A study showed that significant quantities of microbes float around the bathroom for at least two hours after each flush. Always put the toilet lid down before flushing.

Sponge hotbed

A used kitchen sponge can contain thousands of bacteria per square inch, including E. coli and salmonella. The sponge’s moist micro-crevices are a trap for germs and are difficult to disinfect. Replace sponges regularly.

Cutting board

The average kitchen chopping board has around 200% more faecal bacteria on it than the average toilet seat. Hygiene experts advise you to use separate chopping boards for red meat, poultry, fish and vegetables.

Hand washing

Hands are the biggest spreaders of germs in the home. Studies show that hand washing lowers the transmission of diarrhoea and colds, and targeted disinfection at critical sites reduces the spread of infection in the home. Wash your hands frequently during the day, using hot water and soap, to prevent spreading germs. Wash them every time you've been to the toilet, and before and after preparing food.

Good germs

While some germs cause disease, not all microbes are harmful. They are the foundation of the food chain that feeds all life on earth and we would not survive without them.

Bacteria colony

Bacteria can grow and divide every 20 minutes. One single bacterium can multiply into more than eight million cells in less than 24 hours.

Carpet world

Carpets are the largest reservoir of dust in the home. They contain hair and skin cells, food debris, dirt and insects. A home with floorboards is believed to have a tenth of the dust of one with wall-to-wall fitted carpets.

Handle with care

The greatest risk of infection in the bathroom comes from surfaces that are frequently touched by the hands, including the toilet flush handle and seat, taps and door handles.

Dirty laundry

Clothes, towels and linen can carry germs. Washing very soiled items at a high temperature reduces the risk of infection. Wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.

Contaminated birds

More than 50% of raw chicken contains the campylobacter bacteria, which causes more illness than salmonella in Britain. Cooking chicken until it reaches a temperature of 70C (158F) can help to ensure that it's safe to eat. You can test the temperature of food with a food thermometer.

Pet pestilence

Campylobacter is carried by about half of all dogs and cats and it can cause food poisoning in people. The bacteria are passed on when you stroke your pets. Always wash your hands after coming into contact with pets.

Bedroom feast

The bedroom is the perfect breeding ground for dust mites, which feed on dead skin. The average person sheds up to 10g (0.35oz) of dead skin a week and up to 18kg (40lb) in their life.

Food poisoning

About 40% of cases of food poisoning occur in the home, according to a European-wide study by the World Health Organization in 2003.

Smelly handbag

A swab of a handbag showed up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch. A third of bags tested positive for faecal bacteria. Bags come into contact with some very dirty places including public transport, public toilets and restaurant and bar floors.

Soiled soles

Our shoes pick up all kinds of dirt when we're outdoors, including animal faeces. When we walk around in them at home, these germs get liberally spread around, settling into carpets and increasing the risk of infection. Hygiene experts advise taking your shoes off before you walk around the house.

Cooling-off period

Placing hot food in the fridge can lead to uneven cooling, which can cause food poisoning. It can take a long time for the temperature in the middle of the food to drop and that creates the perfect environment for bacteria to multiply.

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“Pearn's Pharmacies, putting patients first”

Pearn's Pharmacy Services

Common Ailment Service

Primary Choice is a campaign to help the public choose the right health advice in the community.

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Prescription   

Repeat, one-off prescriptions. Collect in store or home delivery.

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Funded Services

Browse our NHS funded services offered in our stores.

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COVID-19   

We are receiving an increase in the number of requests for delivery of medicines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Important Info

Find a GP   

Use our GP locator service and nearest Pearn's Pharmacy Branch

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