This week, 11th to 17th June, is Food Safety Week and as both the economic climate AND food waste reduction are high on most of our agendas, this year’s theme is ‘Food safety on a budget’.
This year, using the campaign ‘Your fridge is your friend’ headline, the Food Standards Agency’s aim is to help people keep food safe and make their budget go further. Focussing on the safe use of leftovers, understanding and adhering to ‘use by dates’ and providing meal planning tips to help put the advice into practice.
As our financial belts tighten, many of us are choosing to make the most of our food and avoid food waste at all cost, in fact 48% of people surveyed in the last 6 months agreed with the statement ‘I always avoid throwing food away’. Whilst this is great news for reducing food waste, when you consider that there over a million cases of food poisoning each year, 20,000 hospitalisations and 500 deaths, being a ‘sniff and hoper’ is not always the safest option, especially when catering for vulnerable adults, the elderly, babies and young children.
So, to keep you and your family food safe whilst keeping an eye on your pocket, here are some simple food safety guidelines for you to follow:
Understanding ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates
‘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.
Check the ‘use by’ dates on the food in your fridge on a regular basis and be sure to use (eat, cook or freeze) food before its ‘use by’ to help you avoid throwing food away unnecessarily.
You can freeze food anytime up until the ‘use by’ date. Check the packaging to make sure it’s suitable for freezing.
Once food with a ‘use by’ date has been opened, follow any storage instructions such as ‘eat within 3 days of opening’, but not if the ‘use by’ date is tomorrow.
‘Best before’ dates appear on food with a longer shelf life. They show how long the food will be at its best quality. 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.
Use leftovers safely
Eating leftovers can be a good way of making food go further.
If you are going to store leftovers in the fridge, cool them as quickly as possible (ideally within 90 minutes) cover them and eat them up within two days.
If you are going to freeze them, cool them before putting them in your freezer. Once food is in the freezer, it can be safely stored for a considerable time – but the quality will deteriorate so it’s best to eat it within three months. Don’t forget to date label them, our Count On It® labels are ideal for this, see above.
Make sure you defrost leftovers properly before reheating. Defrost them in the fridge overnight, or in the microwave if you intend to cook them straightaway.
Eat leftovers within 24 hours of defrosting and do not refreeze. The only exception is if you are defrosting raw food, such as meat or poultry, once it’s cooked it can be refrozen.
Cook leftovers until steaming hot throughout.
Don’t reheat leftovers more than once.
Plan your meals
Before you go shopping check what’s in the fridge and freezer.
Think about what you are going to eat that week, plan your meals and write it down.
Make a list of what you need to buy and stick to it! Impulse buys can be expensive and, if not part of your plans, could lead to something else being wasted.
If you do get tempted by special offers in the shop, such as ‘buy one get one free’, think about adjusting your meal planner for the week to add it in, or freeze the extra pack before the ‘use by’ date, ensuring that it is possible to freeze the food. Or you could cook larger portions and save some for another time.
Label food and date it before it goes in the freezer, so you know what it is and how long it’s been there.