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 303.

    Also, how many of those 70,000 poisoning cases relate to fast food outlets?
    This report is not very clear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    Great point Fred. I used to sell honey through our local health food shop. When 'it was decreed' that we should put a sell by date on it the shop keeper and myself decided that if we had to do it we would put either a 50 or 100 year use by date on it and see what happened!!!

  • 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 300.

    ..The 'Sell-by-date' food waste is a scandel, but suits Supermkts. Don't change anything, I benefit every day. Since when did a touch of green on a slab of cheddar hurt anyone?

    Quite so. Some cheese is full of bacteria and it seems to command a higher price to boot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    0.03% incident rate does not seem critical.
    The 'simple measures to avoid all this' are the common sense, use your brain measures that most folk are advocating. Why should we trust someone else's judgement via use-by-dates? What validity do they have if the packer has sneezed over the food just before sealing it, or it was contaminated from source?

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Many cases food poisoning is due to lack of Common Sense. example,Red mead is good for you,green hairy smelly meat is not good for you.The same with vegetables,if it has soft smelly soggy hairy bits and smells funny its bad. If you follow these simple common sense rules your chances of survival are increased. Please use them on liquid also, eg, milk in general does not smell and is not lumpy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Sometimes the sell by date pertains to the container rather than the contents, especially with plastic, tin, or similar. Try to buy products in or transfer them to glass, of course, making sure your container has been sterilized! And to reiterate so many others here, use common sense when using food products to determine edibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Yes, I rock climb, parachute and deep sea dive with mine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Also in the news today: "Tesco's quarterly sales hit by 'challenging' trading" Coincidence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    My wife and I have done this for years, with no ill effects. Virtually all of the food labelling is designed to improve supermarket turnover, and some of it is laughable, such as a jar of mustard with clear instruction to "consume within 6 weeks". Utter nonsense - none of the ingredients are perishable, as they include vinegar. Consumers have become too fussy about hygiene.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Common sense , and a sense ot SMELL , is all you need , not guidlines or government PLEASE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Thanks for the nannying. I think I can figure out for myself if something is still good or not, I don't need to be told "use within two days" as if eating something after three days will result in my untimely demise.

    If something smells off or tastes off it goes in the bin. Chicken and pork get treated more carefully than beef. No food poisoning yet.

    BTW why does salt have a best before date?

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    I would prefer to see the BBC investigate the comment relating to the 'ingredients' of processed foods.
    Some are supposedly included to 'lubricate' the food through the machines.
    It was also claimed they are also detrimental to human health!
    Is this true?

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Just like Health & Safety, the food police are preserving their jobs. I, poor and 69, practically live on cheap free or out-of-date food. You haven't killed me yet. The 'Sell-by-date' food waste is a scandel, but suits Supermkts. Don't change anything, I benefit every day. Since when did a touch of green on a slab of cheddar hurt anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    The other side of the coin is that just maybe, those that make money from selling food wish to alter the best before date / sell by date to ensure more profits.

    People shopping for perishable produce search shelves to get those having the longest "before date". I have bought some milk that was "ripe" two days before the sell by date.

    NOBODY EVER for whom I have cooked a meal has ever taken ill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    71.Mike from Brum
    Does that responsibility include footing the bill for medical treatment if you become infected after consuming contaminated food? Repaying your employer for sick pay?

    The only time I have had the symptoms of food poisoning was after visiting a posh restaurant, should I have had to pay for my medical treatment? or repay my employer for the sick pay I received? I think not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    I'm sure as certain every government agency are determined to remove our common sense and make us as stupid as possible!
    How could we survive without them???

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

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

    Do you mean those pre-packed salads sold at extortionate prices because the left-over salad leaves have been selected for a bruising before being put into their own little plastic sauna bag?

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    If it smells bad , is runny when it should not be or not the colour it should be, throw it. If not, cook it well, it could be the choice between eating and goint without a meal in many cases. USE YOUR NOSE AND YOUR COMMON SENSE. Think how many people could eat if we did not waste so much because of manufacturers fear of prosecution, and eagerness for profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    255 alba Al You are right about spuds, put them in a clamp over winter. You can also leave them to grow. The foliage dies over winter, but the spuds in the ground are perfectly protected, barring slight pest damage


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