People 'taking more food risks'

Fridge The number of cases of food poisoning peaks in the summer as germs grow at a quicker rate

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People are taking more risks with their food as finances become tighter, a Food Standards Agency survey suggests.

It said its research showed that people were trying to save money by making their food go further.

An FSA survey of nearly 2,000 people across the UK suggested more than half were trying to make better use of leftover food.

This included ignoring use-by dates, as well as keeping leftovers in the fridge for long periods of time.

Safety first

The number of cases of food poisoning peaks in the summer as the warmer weather means germs can grow at a quicker rate.

Food safety tips

Understand "use by" and "best before" date

  • "Use by" dates appear on foods that go off quickly. It can be dangerous to eat food past this date, even though it might look and smell fine. But if cooked or frozen its life can be extended beyond the 'use by' date
  • Using food after the "best before" doesn't mean it will be unsafe. Even eggs - providing they are cooked thoroughly - can be eaten a day or two after their "best before" date

Use leftovers safely

  • If you are going to store leftovers in the fridge, cool them as quickly as possible (within 90 minutes). Cover and eat within two days
  • If freezing leftovers, cool them first and use within 3 months

Source: Food Standards Agency

Bob Martin, a food safety expert at the Food Standards Agency, said: "With most of us seeing our weekly shopping bills increase over the last few years, we are all looking for ways to get the most out of our shopping budget.

"Using leftover food is a good way of making our meals go further. However, unless we're careful, there's a chance we can risk food poisoning by not storing or handling them properly."

The FSA said a third of people were more likely to use the look and smell of food to see if it was safe to eat rather than the use-by date.

Mr Martin said: "It's tempting to just give your food a sniff to see if you think it's gone 'off', but food bugs like E.coli and Salmonella don't cause food to smell off, even when they may have grown to dangerous levels. So food could look and smell fine but still be harmful."

The FSA said leftovers should be put in the fridge as soon as possible and then eaten within two days and should be cooked until they are steaming hot.

Each year there are around 70,000 recorded cases of food poisoning in England and Wales.

There are many different causes, including not cooking food thoroughly, not storing food correctly that needs to be chilled, or someone who is ill or has unclean hands touching the food.

Thorough washing of hands before and after preparing food and appropriate storing, handling and cooking of food will minimise the risk.

Andrew Wilson of the British Dietetic Association said: "Use by dates on food are there to protect consumers from harmful bacteria that might grow in food- even if it looks and smells ok, it could be harbouring nasty food poisoning bacteria.

"Best before dates however are a bit different in that the food is likely to be safe even after this date, but it just may not taste or look so good.

"Always follow good food hygiene rules when preparing and storing any high risk foods such as meat, fish etc. A bout of food poisoning is not only unpleasant but could be potentially life threatening. There's no point in taking risks with food safety."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    When I was a child in the 40/50s - there were no use by dates, no fridges....and in postwar UK nothing was wasted....and we all seem to have survived the experience.

    Far too much "nannying" now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    Our problem is that we are TOO conscientious when it comes to food.

    When I was young we were never so picky with food - possibly because it was rationed! It was valuable.

    I remember having neck of mutton for Sunday Dinner - and this came out again as cold for Monday's dinner with no ill effects.
    BBF date is just that - BEST before not deadly after - and this so that shops can con us to buy more

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    Use-by dates are not only generated because of the growth of harmful organisms but also the toxins generated from them which are HEAT STABLE - this is why it is dangerous to reheat rice. People are very condemning when it comes to outbreaks, imagine if one of your family were hurt - I am sure you would much rather them be over cautious!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    For those who think that heating up thoroughly is going to ensure food is safe you've not got it right. This is why good food handling practices incorporate temperature control, storage conditions, as well as time constraints for shelf life. Heat resistant toxins and spore forming bacteria are the real issue with some pathogenic bacteria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    [head in my hands] I'm a chef, if it doesn't look right and it doesn't smell and taste right then use your common sense, unless your starving on your knees. Humans have been surviving for thousands of years without use/sell-by-dates. This is just a way of getting us to consume more. Use your common sense.


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