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This is National Food Safety Week which takes place from 11th to 17th June. For your chance to win a fridge thermometer please read on….
The theme for this year’s Food Safety Week is “Food safety on a budget” and focuses on how householders can make sure that they keep food safe and make their budget stretch further. Research has found that the average household in Northern Ireland could save about £480 a year if they simply reduced the amount of food that goes to waste. This amount of wastage is a combination of poor planning when doing the shopping and confusion as regards what the terms “best before” and “use by” mean on food packaging.
According to John Murray, Senior Environmental Health Officer with Strabane District Council, research has shown that about a third of shoppers in Northern Ireland think that “best before” and “use by” mean the same thing.
“You will find “use by” dates on foods that are perishable such as packets of cooked ham, cheese etc and, because they are perishable, such foods will go off quickly. It can be dangerous to eat food that has passed it’s “use-by” date even though it might look, smell and even taste okay. It’s also very important that fridges operate between 2oCand 5oCto ensure that food can be kept chilled and therefore safe”said Mr. Murray.
Best before dates, on the other hand, appear on foods with a longer shelf life such as biscuits and tinned fruit. Eating food after it’s “best before” date doesn’t mean that the food will be unsafe….it’s usually the quality of the food that will deteriorate…bread will go stale and products such as cereals and biscuits will go “soft” through time.
Mr. Murray added “When buying food people should always check the “use-by” dates and always buy food with the longest “use-by” date as it will be the freshest. Once such foods are opened the storage instructions on the packaging such as “eat within 3 days after opening” should always be followed. If we were all to check the dates on food in our fridges on a regular basis and use food before it’s “use-by” date, then we wouldn’t have to throw away so much food unnecessarily especially in these times of austerity when every little saving helps”.
Continuing Mr. Murray said that many people used leftover food and this was a good way of making food go further. “If somebody is going to keep leftovers for the next day’s dinner, they should store it in the fridge and cook it until piping hot the next day. Leftovers should be kept in the fridge for no more than two or three days and only reheated once. If someone wanted to freeze leftovers to use at a later date they can be frozen and used within 3 months otherwise the quality won’t be as good. Before reheating any frozen leftovers make sure they have been thoroughly defrosted and they should never be refrozen after cooking”
In relation to the issue of people not planning their shopping properly, research has found that less than half of consumers in N.I make out a list of what they need before they go shopping. “If shoppers have a list made out they are less likely to buy more than they need or to purchase “impulse buys” such as the “buy two, get one free” offer and as a result there is less likelihood of food having to be thrown out”, said Mr. Murray.
As part of Food Safety Week, we are offering twenty prizes of fridge thermometers which will help you keep a check on the temperature of your fridge and thus ensure that food is kept at the correct temperature. To be in with a chance of winning please answer the following question.
What temperature should your fridge operate at to keep food safe?
E-mail your answer and contact details email@example.com you can post your entry to the Environmental Health Department, Strabane District Council, 47 Derry Road, Strabane, BT82 8DY. Entries should arrive no later than Friday 22nd June.