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 283.

    Do you tend to cook your salads, a major source of e-coli when out of date?

    Can't afford salads, only rich people can afford them

    I buy a lettuce and some Tomatoes

    At least I know it hasn't been handled in some sweatshop on an industrial estate full of half educated cheap labour immigrants pulling 16 hour shifts to survive

    Peel off the outer leaf of the lettuce
    wash the tomatoes


  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    It may seem like common sense to you but 20,000 people every year have to be admitted to hospital for treatment from food poisoning. Simple measures would avoid all of these.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    The media do naught but latch onto anything said by a critic.

    If we completely avoided all the things which are alleged to be bad for us, we would starve to death and have a paupers existence in the process.

    A variegated diet of food that is fit for human consumption is fine.

    Eating contaminated food (toxins and/or some bacteria), you could be in trouble.

    Is sickness / death worth the risk?

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Food Standards Agency, FSA, Fatuous Stupid Advice.
    Go back to the old ways of deciding when food is off - use your senses and brain.
    Want to reduce your risk of food poisoning? Develop some immunity - stop being so clinically clean. Dare to eat an apple straight from the tree, don't worry if you eat a sandwich whithout scrubbing your hands in bleach first (unless you've just been ....)

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Doesn't bother me: I've always done all the wrong things like eating mouldy stuff off the floor, reheating it loads of times, mixing raw and cooked meats, you name it, and I'm hardly ever ill. One of these days everyone will get wiped-out by germs because they have no natural immunity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Honey lasts forever

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    The money is tight, I am not going to rely on supermarkets (they want me to make frequent visit) to find out if the food is safe or not, I use 'common sense' and as someone mentioned experience

    Some times I may fail, cmon I wont die if I take an egg which is couple of days older than the expiry date.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Excellent!! people using common sense to manage their lives and not throw perfectly good food away just because of a 'use by' date. My parents managed to raise their family in the days before 'use by' and never, ever had a problem. Good news for common sense!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Dazmeiseter said: "A call for common sense on this issue I believe. Making sure food is heated thoroughly and stored properly will have more impact than blindly following use-by dates..."

    Do you tend to cook your salads, a major source of e-coli when out of date?

    There is no simple formula, and this 'my granny smells her food and she's now 85' logic can work, but equally it's not infallible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Using food after the 'best before' doesn't mean it will be unsafe. The exception to this is eggs, providing they are cooked thoroughly, they can be eaten a day or two after their 'best before' date

    All you need to do with an egg is float it

    If it sinks it's fine
    If it floats it's gone

    In the war eggs were varnished to stop them going off

    10 million years of human evolution at work...

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    Having lived next to a lady in her eighties who ate out of date food.Ignored all the nannie knows best propoganda.She was fit in mind and body unlike the dismal stick insects that infest our celeb obsessed culture.With their in most cases fatal obsortion with the idea that everybody other than the media.Is interested in their drab lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    "see this revolver I'm holding to my head? I've already pulled the trigger 5 times, and nothing has happened. I shall keep pulling the trigger because now I'm confident nothing bad can happen"

    I think if you're too dim to realise Russian Roulette is a 2 player game then you falling foul of Use By Dates is the least of your concerns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    255Alba Al

    -233 Avalon: Yes, potato's should last for nearly a year. How else did our ancestors survive the winters. Back in the 80's all veg was sold with the mud still attached. Now you've got about two weeks before the spuds have cashed in their chips. Common sense thrown out for marketing.
    Buy bulk unwashed spuds, and root veg, and store in a potato clamp (google it).

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    "Using food after the 'best before' doesn't mean it will be unsafe. The exception to this is eggs, providing they are cooked thoroughly, they can be eaten a day or two after their 'best before' date"

    Does that paragraph actually make any sense? Are BBC News articles proof read by monkeys?

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    I've always kept left overs in the fridge and eaten them up to a week later. Mind you, I'm vegan; guess I'd be more careful with meat. But still, common sense should prevail.

    I buy hummous with use by dates of less than a week and often finish it two weeks or so later. On the whole you can tell, it's not rocket science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    its a wonder how our ancestors coped before best before and use by dates and didn't all die from food poisoning.. oh yes that's it.. they used their eyes and noses.

    wash your hands, if it smells bad it is, if it looks bad it is, cook it properly. eat.

    7 billion and counting and with most of the worlds population not likely to ever see a best before date or pretty packets. I think we'll be ok ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    The advice given by the FSA is for morons. Food safety is a matter of applying common sense- 'use by' dates are there to cover the seller and if we all threw food away after it reached said date the waste would be shocking. Also the comment about eggs is ridiculous; 2 days?! Crack an egg open and if it looks and smells fine it will be fine, reardless of the date on the box.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    @255.Alba Al, I think the key is in part the plastic bags (as one poster pointed out) that they come wrapped in, those 56lb bags were often 2 layers of thick paper/light card, which helped absorb the moisture, I think I'll try putting them in a newspaper lined draw to see if they survive longer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    If you buy loose fruit and veg it has no use by date compared to the bagged up variety yet is exactly the same.

    Make use of BOGOFs and freeze the free ones to eat at a later date.

    Re-heat leftovers thoroughly before eating.

    Basically, use common sense and you will save money as well.


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