The recent story about a packhouse worker handling fruit while infected with hepatitis A made me realise just how vulnerable we consumers are.

We buy our food trusting that all care and precaution has been taken to ensure it is in the best condition it possibly can be.

Yes, we should wash all fruit and vegetables we buy but sometimes, especially with fruit, that just doesn't happen.

I have bought apples from the supermarket loads of times on my way to work and just given them a quick rub on my trousers before eating them.

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Because we have a prolific garden and don't use spray I tend not to worry too much about washing the vegetables unless they are dirty.

I usually just give them a quick rinse. A few weeks ago I didn't do a very good job of it.

We were nearly finished dinner, which consisted of ham and a lovely fresh salad from the garden, when Mr Neat said: "Did you wash this lettuce?"

"Of course," I replied.

"Well you missed something," he said pointing with his fork to a slug nestled among the lettuce leaves.

"Oh dear me," I said, "Lucky it's a whole one."

At least we know the lettuce wasn't covered in spray or some horrid disease because if it were there would be no living creature anywhere near it.

Since the story about the packhouse all purchased fruit and vegetables have been thoroughly washed.

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I'm sure 99.9 per cent of Hawke's Bay packhouses are up to standard. Unfortunately, contrary to what Michael Jackson said, in this case one bad apple does spoil the whole bunch. We don't need this sort of publicity so let's hope the packhouse in question has sorted out its problems.

I've also been watching that programme on television where the health inspector goes around different shops and eating places.

Some of those places are just disgusting and while they bend over backwards to clean up their act before the inspector makes a return visit, who knows what happens a week down the track?

They really need to be monitored for months to make sure they are maintaining good hygiene and if not, close the doors.

Consumers should not have to worry about the cleanliness of any food establishment.

It's bad enough trying to keep yourself and your family free of germs and disease, especially heading into winter.

We don't want to end up being paranoid shoppers who don't want to touch trolleys or basket handles for fear of catching something.

I think the most important thing we can do to help ourselves is to make sure we wash our hands before and after handling food.

Of course, there are other times you need to wash your hands and the sooner little ones are taught the better.

As we head into winter the warnings about keeping your cough, colds and flu to yourself begin again.

We are told to stay home if sick ... don't go to work. That is really hard for some people. They feel guilty if they stay home because they have a cold. They know that their colleagues will have to work harder and longer because they aren't there.

However, if you are anything like me I would rather work harder and longer than be coughed and sneezed over. Don't feel guilty. You are actually doing your colleagues a favour by staying away and getting better.

Sometimes it doesn't matter what preventive measures you take you still get sick. That's part of life.

However, if we all do our bit hopefully winter in Hawke's Bay will be a healthy one for most of us.