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 363.

    I get very annoyed by foods that have quite a long use by date but say 'once opened use within 2 days'. It causes me many dilemmas as I don't necessarily want to use the item so quickly. Neither do I want to throw away the unused portion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    You coud blame the supermarkets or then you could just sue people who are too ready to sue for doing something stupid...

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    The fridge in the picture is overstocked. You shouldn't overstock your fridge, it's not good for it. The air needs to circulate around unrestricted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    Do not knowingly take Food risks.
    But,sometimes wonder.....
    Is the Sell by Date telling me to buy the product a lot quicker...Or telling my local supermarket to sell it a lot quicker?
    And why do some people want me to ignore the Sell by Date?

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    Isn`t that THEIR choice and THEIR Responsibility??
    Stop acting as if citizens are complete morons BBC.
    Sell by dates etc are only bureaucratic guidelines anyway!
    Good to see Non stories are now in vogue with the BBC heirarchy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    We love BB and UB dates.
    It saves us a fortune. How else can you get perfectly good food at 90% off its retail price? However the mark up on stuff in supermarkets is so huge I suspect they are still making a profit.

    However my particular beef is why are huge supermarkets allowed to mark up fruit and veg at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    A serious article to comment on, please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    "For decades food was eaten with no sell by dates and people survived just fine - we all need to build a natural immune system"

    When I was a kid in the 50's we used have different school friends regulary off school with tummy bugs and most believed it was down to eating out of date food. Todays labelling protects us if we follow / adhere to them.

  • Comment number 355.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    I was under the assumption that Use By and Best Before dates were just a bit of advice and you were meant to use your nous when deciding whether something was OK or not. For me the dates usually mean to be careful when deciding whether to eat something or not, not to throw it away

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    The real reason for the 'pathetically short sell/use by dates' is because the supermarkets are watching their backs. It's not them trying to get people to by more (that's just a happy side effect for them) it's because if they had a long use by date, and something had gone off before it, someone who got food poisoning because of it could sue the supermarket/food company for false information.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    A lot depends on the individual also. I've eaten things and suffered nothing for it, that made others who ate the same thing ill. Young children, the elderly, and those with health conditions obviously must be more careful, or if you are just one of those people prone to digestive upsets. A bit of common sense goes a long way...

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    With all the British People having to get Food from the Trussel Trust coz the Tories are dismantling the Welfare State and giving all the cash to their rich buddies, I think a label with a Date on it is the least of our worries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    333.Rachel "we live in a society that freaks out about everything"
    Agreed. More specifically, our media freaks out about everything, and so the alarmist lobby groups headed by dubious 'experts' have realised that only by freaking out about every little potential risk can they attract attention & funding. We need to be more discerning in what we believe, and promote media literacy over sheepism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    A big problem is pre-packaged food in fixed quantities so you end up with left-overs which are too little to do a second meal and too much to justify throwing away.

    If you could buy loose food in the amount you need to do one meal for the family then there would be no left-overs to go off in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    Those of us exposed to a time before food sell and use by dates were common knowledge of consumability in respect of progress toward to the dustbin have instinctive knowledge that occasionally conflicts with cutionary dates that overstep necessity. For many consume by authority is undermined by suspiscion that dates are used more as a consumer whipping stick to engage in needless shopping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    I don't like sell by dates. they tend to stick in my teeth?

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    This is brilliant. People are lambasted for wasting food, so they are more careful to use everything, so now we are being told we are putting our health at risk by not being wasteful!

    People need to exercise a degree of common sense, but if the choice is eating something a day past its use-by date, or not eating at all, they cannot be blamed for taking the risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    here in the usa the use by dates are generated & controlled by the FDA/USDA- the grocer, farmer, processor have no say. the dates are the last day the item can be sold w/as little germs/bacteria as possible. The dates can be ignored on a few items like dried cereals& pasta, which can last years w/o harm. i just ate some canned meat 3 yrs out of date w/no effect. i think our way is better.

  • 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.


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