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 323.

    A few years ago a friend of ours offered to make us lunch - a warm chicken salad - lovely!
    Not when she didn't wash her hands and used the same knife and chopping board that she'd just used to cut the raw chicken to start cutting the tomatos and other cold ingredients! We couldn't believe she didn't think there was anything wrong with that - even more so that she's an experienced nurse!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    #306 Veronica... back then we also didn't spray everything with detol and kids played outside in the dirt so got a good healthy exposure to a few bugs...

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    I was involved in a scheme that got Basic Food Hygiene taught to year six (top primary) pupils via e-learning - but our funding ended. What you learn at age10 stays with you for life and I was also aware that an understanding of hygiene would also stand us in good stead come the Pandemic! But it fell on deaf ears...

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    I only use the "use by" for the meat like pork and chicken can't be eaten rare and more dangerous! But the vegetables, the yoghurt are all items easy to see if it's gone or not! And so far, I have never had any problems!

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    I wonder how many people would sue the supermarket if they fell sick from food in date? Too many. I suspect BBQs contribute a lot to food poisoning in summer. Everyone who remembers the 50s has oddly forgotten it was generally a woman's role to cook and had a lot more time to do so.
    @314 you can teach yourself basic cooking. I did the same a few years ago and can cook decent meals now (I'm 24)

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    Not really that bothered by the info on foodstuffs - tend to use my own rule of thumb and haven't had any problems to date.

    Something is always going to get you - if the Tories don't kill me then something else will so why get that uptight about food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Its beyond myself how people afford 'premium' brands...though its still possible to afford a healthy diet on not much - I can buy oats (for breakfast) a sandwich at dinnertime & pasta or rice & beans or sardines for tea..on a budget. - I also ride a bike for 10hrs + a week. Why buy pretty decorated brands when the basic brands are just as good ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    314 blagradad
    I suspect you can read, so buy a cookbook or search the net. There are lots of books and sites which explain everything from how to turn on the cooker and utensils to use as well as what to buy and how to cook it. As for dinner whenmum's out - this is your chance to experiment!!

  • 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 314.

    I'm 20 right now and my mum does all the cooking. The most I remember was being taught in high school in home economics about cooking. If my parents are away what dinner are we left with? Microwave meals. I would love to make my own meals from scratch but I really just haven't been taught and I wouldn't have the confidence to do it. Now I'm at an age where it's MY fault that I can't cook?

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    its all a load of nonsense . i have never used a use by date in my life, if it smells rotten, its off, if its curdled, its off, if the veg is decomposing its off. if none of the above its edible. i hang pheasants after a shoot for up to a week with the guts inside to age the meant, its not off , or putrid. its aged and flavoursome

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    I think that the food dates are confusing. I remember not long ago that the Government agreed, saying that there are too many types of dates and a lot of them were useless. We were told to ignore a lot of them. Now we're told to take notice of them. Which is it? There should be one date and that's it. If food is past that date then it should be out of date and unsafe, end of story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    I've eaten food weeks out of date, I use my eyes and nose. If it looks and smells bad I leave it alone. Never had food poisoning through bad food, never had an upset stomach.

    Common sense.

    (our freezer is full of reduced "dated" food from various shops)

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

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

    It is pretty obvious when an item of salad goes off, it does not need a use by date. The leaves of lettuce tend to rot, cucumber goes soft and watery and tomato's go soft and start growing fur. If your salad is none of these things then it is safe to eat as long as it has been washed thoroughly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    If a food has a 'use-by' date then there may be a health risk if eaten after that date. Most foods have a 'best before' date, this indicates when the quality may have reduced and should be found on things like honey (loss of flavour etc), cake (goes stale), bread (goes stale or mouldy), but no significant health risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    What gets me every time is the attitude that the food is perfectly safe up until 11:59pm on the day before the use-by date (and even BB date). Then suddenly, somehow on the stroke of midnight, the food has instantly turned deadly and MUST be binned!

    Common sense is a quality we can no longer assume everyone to have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Clearly those giving advice are not on the breadline. When you are hungry you eat anything, believe me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    Having been brought up in an age where food was kept on a cold slab in the pantry, milk was kept in a bowl of cold water in the summer with a damp tea towel over it to keep it fresh ( mostly unpastuerised ) and before sell by and use by dates were invented it makes me wonder how I survived my childhood. No-one had salmonella, e-coli was never heard off and people rarely had sickness bugs..

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    My old mum used her nose to tell when food was 'past it'. Teach people HOW to tell when somethings 'off' and there'll be no problems. I ate some eggs today that were 'use by' in April and I'm all rig.........

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    The problem is that as a people we buy way too much for our average or actual need, we need to look at improved home storage, the problem is that our diets have changed meaning that we need to refrigerate rather than freeze things more these days. Also BOGOF causes food waste, would it not be better to reduce the price of everything instead, so we only buy what we need, when we need it.


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