More than 80% of consumers have at least one poor kitchen habit that puts them at risk of food poisoning, according to a survey.
The poll for the Food Standards Agency found that 43% would eat food after the "use by" date, 29% would eat food that has been dropped on the floor, and more than a third (36%) wash chicken before cooking it, potentially splashing bacteria around the kitchen.
The study, to mark Food Safety Week, also found that 35% of people do not check "use by" dates, with 85% of this group preferring to sniff food to decide if it is safe and 68% looking at its colour.
Unlike "best before" dates, "use by" dates relate to safety and are based on scientific testing.
More than a fifth of those questioned (21%) said they do not wash their hands properly before preparing food.
While 83% admitted to one or more habits when cooking at home that could put them at risk of food poisoning, the same percentage said they have confidence in their food hygiene all or most of the time and 93% believe they have never given family or friends food poisoning.
If they do fall ill themselves, only 5% consider whether the cleanliness of their own kitchen is the cause.
KITCHEN SAFETY FOR DUMMIES:
- Use by dates are for food that goes off quickly, so don't eat it if it's past this date.
- However 'best before' dates are on food with a longer shelf life so there's a bit more leeway.
- If it says eat within two or three days of opening, follow the instructions exactly
- Cool leftovers before putting them in the fridge
- Don't reheat leftovers more than once
- Use separate chopping boards for meat and veg
The agency is launching an online "kitchen check" which asks consumers to look at their food preparation practices, and gives a score and some tips based on their answers.
FSA food safety expert Bob Martin said: "By not washing their hands before preparing food at home, or ignoring 'use by' dates, people could be setting themselves and their friends or family up for a bout of really unpleasant illness.
"We've created the kitchen check to help people to think about what they do in their own homes and make it easier for people to be knowledgeable and confident about storing and preparing food."
:: Censuswide polled 2,199 UK residents between May 3-9.