Report: As household budgets shrink, food safety risks increase

The economy’s effect on people’s pocketbooks may also indicate they’re more willing to eat risky leftovers, according to research from the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The report, “Food safety on a budget,” found that approximately 97 percent of those interviewed believed the cost of their usual grocery shopping trips had gone up “significantly” in the past three years. Of those, about 47 percent attempt to make better and more prolonged use of leftovers. At the same time, people are ignoring “use by” dates more often and keeping leftovers longer.

People also are more likely to choose cheaper brands and use offers than before.

Experts at the FSA warn that although using leftovers is a good way to “make meals go further,” consumers should be conscious of proper handling and storage of leftovers. Using leftovers safely also helps prevent unnecessary food waste.

The U.K. sees about a million cases of food poisoning each year, with a disproportionate number of cases during the summer months.

So, to help prevent food poisoning from leftovers, the FSA has some advice:

  • Ensure your refrigerator is set at the proper temperature:  40°F (5°C).
  • Make sure leftovers make it to the fridge as quickly as possible (within 90 minutes is best). Containers should be covered. Leftovers are best eaten within two days.
  • If you’re going to freeze leftovers, cool them first prior to freezing. Once frozen, leftovers can last a long time but it’s best to use them within three months to maintain quality. When defrosting leftovers, eat within 24 hours. Do not refreeze.
  • When reheating leftovers, make sure they’re warmed throughout.

The report also noted approximately 1/3 of those surveyed judge foods safety by appearance, smell or how long it’s been kept as opposed to the use-by date. However, dangerous pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella don’t produce a smell and cannot be detected by sight.

The release of the report marked the beginning of Food Safety Week in the U.K., which began Monday and runs through Sunday.

Read the full report here.

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