Recycle for Lewisham

A blog written for residents of Lewisham

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Food Safety Week, 11-17 June 2012

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.”

View your fridge as your friend

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.

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“Leftovers” ft. Lewisham

Students at Goldsmiths College, New Cross produced this excellent video as part of their final year Media and Communications project. It discusses the fact that in the UK we throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food waste every year and highlights the issues associated with this in terms of the huge waste of resources.

The video features interviews with food waste experts including our very own Waste Prevention Officers – Kristina Binns and David Brinson (torso only), as well as students from St Augustines R.C Primary School.

For tips on what can and can’t be frozen, portion sizes, better food storage to make your food last longer, hundreds of recipes to inspire you and help use up your leftovers visit the website.

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Love Christmas – Hate Waste

As Christmas is fast approaching I thought it might be pertinent to do a Christmas related waste post… Without wanting to sound like a scrooge, Christmas is a time of both excessive consumption and waste. Whilst I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a couple of extra mince pies or give your loved ones presents, there are a few things you can do to make your Christmas a little less wasteful:

1. Portion Control – shops are only shut for a couple of days so there is no need to buy excessive amounts of food, save money and reduce waste by thinking about how many people you will be feeding and how much they are really going to eat. You can use the Christmas perfect portions page on the Love Food Hate Waste website to plan your meals. Remember if you do find that you have over estimated you can also ….

2. Use up your leftovers – Visit the same website to find some Christmas left over recipes that will give you some great alternatives (and additions) to the classic turkey sandwich. Left over food is also being dealt with on London wide basis with the funding of a Surplus food centre in time for Christmas, the project will provide 800,000 meals for the needy.

3. Recycle your wrapping paper – So you’ve unwrapped all of your Christmas presents and have a wrapping paper mountain you need to clear to be able to watch the Christmas telly, the good news is that YOU CAN RECYCLE all of your wrapping paper, so pop it in your green bin or box.   

4. Pack your decorations away – Around 500 tonnes of old Christmas tree lights are thrown away each year, coupled with a huge amount of baubles and decorations! By taking down and packing away your decorations carefully you’ll have a lot less broken light bulbs and it will make it much easier to put it all up again next year.

5. Recycle your Christmas tree – If you haven’t bought a planted or plastic tree, the final act of Christmas is usually the ritual of throwing the Christmas tree into the back garden, where it gets left until the spring when you start to venture out into the garden and discover a very sad looking, needleless brown tree! Lewisham provide 12 sites throughout the borough where you can recycle your old Christmas trees for free.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Love Food Hate Waste

The Love Food Hate Waste campaign aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste. The campaign shows that by doing some easy practical everyday things in the home we can all waste less food, which will ultimately benefit our purses and the environment too.

But is wasting food really that important? …. well it turns out that actually it is …

  • 8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year
  • wasting food costs the average family with children £680 a year 
  • If we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.

So what can you do about it?

 The love food hate waste website has some great tips on PERFECT PORTIONS  which helps removes the guesswork by suggesting how much to cook, depending on who’s coming for dinner, and ways to measure it, this is done alongside the NHS 5 A Day website for the fruit and vegetable portion information.

You can learn how your FREEZER CAN BECOME YOUR BEST FRIEND and the best way to STORE YOUR FOOD so that it lasts the longest.

There’s also loads of GREAT RECIPES that make economic use of all the odds and ends that invariably get leftover from previous meals or forgotten in the fruit bowl or the back of the fridge from Top chefs and the Women’s Institute … and they all taste delicious!