As part of this year’s Food Safety Week, Lewisham Council is reminding residents to store leftover food safely.
New research published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on 11 June, shows that some people are taking more risks with food safety as they try to save money and make their food go further.
Some people are ignoring ‘Use By’ dates more than they used to, while others are keeping leftovers for longer than the recommended limit of two days in the fridge.
There are over a million cases of food poisoning in the UK each year, 20,000 hospitalisations and 500 deaths.
Councillor Susan Wise, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, said: “Of course, we all want our money to go as far as possible and using leftovers is a really good way of doing this. But no-one want to be ill.
“People often become ill because they don’t store food properly or they store it for too long. The best way of avoiding this is to plan meals where you can, and just buy what you need. This also means you are less likely to have to throw food away which helps you save money.”
Bob Martin, a food safety expert at the FSA, 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. During Food Safety Week we are working with Lewisham Council to encourage people to view their fridge as their friend and make the most of leftovers whilst staying safe.”
The FSA’s advice on leftovers says:
- If you are going to store leftovers in the fridge, cool them as quickly as possible, ideally within 90 minutes. Cover them, get them in the fridge and then eat them within two days.
- Make sure your fridge is operating at the correct temperature, it should be below 5oC.
- You can also freeze your leftovers, but cool them first to minimise temperature fluctuation in your freezer. They can be safely stored in the freezer almost indefinitely, but the quality will still deteriorate gradually with time, so it’s best to eat them within three months.
- Make sure you defrost frozen leftovers properly before using them. If you’re going to cook them straightaway use a microwave. If you don’t have a microwave, defrost them in the fridge overnight.
- Eat leftovers within 24 hours of defrosting and do not refreeze them again. The only exception to this is if you are defrosting raw food, such as meat or poultry, which can be refrozen once it has been cooked.
- Cook leftovers until steaming hot throughout.
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.
There are around a million cases of food poisoning every year in the UK. The levels soar during summer months across the UK with around 120,000 extra cases of illness from June to August. One of the reasons for this increase is warmer temperatures causing any germs present to grow faster, which underlines the importance of getting leftovers in the fridge quickly.