Rising cost of living is compromising food safety

Survey reveals consumers are eating out of date food and turning off fridges to save money
03 November 2022 , By Katie Coyne

Millions are being forced into food poverty yet over 500,000 tonnes of edible food is wasted each year

Almost a third of people in a Food Standards Agency (FSA) consumer survey report have ignored use-by-dates at least once in the past month because they couldn’t afford to buy more food.

IPSOS, on behalf of the FSA, carries out regular consumer surveys into attitudes towards food including safety, availability, and affordability.

The latest bulletin found that due to lack of funds, 32% surveyed had eaten food past the use-by-date, and 18% had turned off a fridge or freezer containing food at least once in the previous month.  

Some 30% had skipped a meal, or reduced the size of meals, because they didn’t have enough money and 40% said they felt worried about not being able to afford food the next month.

Emily Miles, Chief Executive, FSA said: “It’s not a good idea to turn off the fridge or eat food past its use-by date as these things can lead to a higher risk of you becoming ill with food poisoning.

Surplus food redistribution charity, FareShare said it did not have enough food to meet “skyrocketing demand” and the situation looked set to worsen.

FareShare is calling on MPs to sign a letter asking for £25 million in funding that will help deliver 100 million meals to people worst hit by the cost-of-living crisis.

Lindsay Boswell, CEO, FareShare said: “While millions are being forced into food poverty, at least 500,000 tonnes of good-to-eat food goes to waste each year across our farms and the food industry. It is often cheaper for farmers to waste food, than to feed people. At a time of so much need, it is wrong there is so much waste.

FareShare is calling on MPs to sign a letter asking for £25 million in funding that will help deliver 100 million meals to people worst hit by the cost-of-living crisis.

Steve Nash, a campaigner on E. coli O157 is very concerned, particularly since Food Safety News reported that, across England, Scotland and Wales, 192 cases of genetically linked cases of E. coli (STEC) O157 had been identified in September alone.

Nash said: “The government is trying to dissuade people from eating food past its use-by-date, but if you don’t have enough to eat you are going to do it.” He argued that efforts to curb food waste should focus earlier, on the production end - and redistributingwonky” produce, for example - where the majority of food waste is created.

Research by Food Standards Scotland (FSS) in October 2022 also revealed that 50% of consumers in Scotland have admitted to eating food which has passed its ‘use-by’ date in order to save money. In addition, around 10% of respondents had changed the temperature of the thermostat in their fridge to reduce energy bills.

Jacqui McElhiney, Head of Science at FSS said, “While we were expecting the results of the survey to demonstrate some behaviour changes in relation to how consumers are buying and preparing food, it's concerning that so many people are adopting practices which could put them at increased risk of food poisoning.

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