In the wake of an eight-month E.coli outbreak in the UK, the FSA is launching a campaign in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland educating consumers about the food safety risks associated with raw vegetables – but the campaign will not run in England because the Cabinet Office has refused to approve funding for it.

The campaign, devised by agency Dare, will run in Scotland and Wales for one month, starting next week, and in Northern Ireland in two two-week bouts from 5 December and 2 January. It is funded from existing, devolved FSA budgets with approval from ministers in those countries.

The FSA also wanted to run the campaign in England, but the Cabinet Office, which typically has to approve government advertising and marketing spend above £100,000, refused permission.

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said everyone had to do more with less in the current economic climate, and the FSA should instead work with retailers, trade bodies and producers, who should also take the responsibility for the promotion of food safety messages.

A deadly E.coli outbreak in Germany earlier this year had been associated with sprouted seeds, while the recent E.coli episode in the UK, which came to light in September, was linked to soil on leeks and potatoes. The FSA therefore wanted to run a campaign to reinforce existing advice on how to store, handle and cook raw vegetables, an FSA spokesman said. “The FSA has previously highlighted the risks associated with preparing raw meat and poultry.

However, recent E.coli outbreaks have shown handling of fresh produce, particularly that grown in soil, also carries risk,” he said. 

Although there would not be an ad campaign in England, the FSA would carry out “PR activity” to convey important hygiene messages on handling raw vegetables, he added.

Earlier this summer, the EC ran a campaign to restore confidence in fruit and veg following the German E.coli outbreak.

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