More people are ignoring 'use by' dates
More people are putting their health at risk by eating food past its ‘use by’ date as they seek to cut down on their weekly food bill, according to research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
A poll carried out for the agency revealed 22 per cent of respondents scanned use by dates ‘less strictly than previously’ as food prices increase. The weekly shopping bill was estimated to have risen by an average of £14.90 over the last three years.
People living in Wales were found to be least likely to stick to ‘use by’ dates.
In addition, 12 per cent said they thought the date was for guidance only. Thirty-nine per cent said they thought they could tell when food had gone off, despite the fact that some deadly food bacteria are undetectable.
FSA food safety expert Bob 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.
'These dates provide helpful information on how long food will stay safe for, so it’s very important you stick to the "use by" date. Other dates marked on foods focus less on food safety. The "best before" date relates to food quality and can be treated more flexibly, while "display until" dates are there to help shop staff to manage stock.'
The research also unveiled a certain amount of confusion over labelling, as 11 per cent of respondents said they thought ‘use by’ dates were used by supermarkets to ‘make you buy more’.
Last year Defra issued new guidelines urging businesses to avoid using ‘sell by’ dates, which have no statutory basis and are used for stock control rather than food safety.
The FSA also gave its backing to WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign. Emma Marsh, community partnership manager at the campaign, said: ‘Food is there to be eaten, so this Food Safety Week let’s enjoy our leftovers and do it safely.'
According to research by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), of the 8.3m tonnes of food and drink waste thrown away by UK households each year, at least 60 per cent is ‘perfectly edible’.
David Kidney, CIEH head of policy, said: 'I understand the pressure household budgets are under, but people shouldn’t take chances over food safety. The health consequences of food poisoning can be severe, even deadly.'