Are you risking a long stay on the loo to save a few bob?

big-toilet-paperTimes are hard. Even Asda shoppers are cutting back. Aldi and Lidl are raking it in. But the Food Standards Agency (FSA) would still rather you didn’t eat mouldy food in case it makes you ill. Caveat emptor we say.

New research by the FSA shows that some people are taking more risks with food safety as they try to save money and make their meals go further. 97% of those questioned believe the cost of their typical shopping basket has gone up significantly in the last three years, meaning half of these people (47%)  are now trying to make better use of leftover food. However, 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.

Bob Martin, a food safety expert at the FSA, said: “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”

There are around a million cases of food poisoning every year in the UK. The levels increase during summer months, with around 120,000 extra cases of illness from June to August. But lingering leftovers are not the only issue.

According to the FSA’s research, people are also risking food poisoning by ignoring 'use by' dates more than they used to with a third of people more likely to judge when food is safe to eat by its smell, look or how long it’s been stored, rather than by the 'use by' date.

Bob Martin continued, "it’s tempting to just give your food a sniff to see if you think it’s gone 'off', but food bugs like E.coli and salmonella don’t cause food to smell off, even when they may have grown to dangerous levels. So food could look and smell fine but still be harmful.”

However Bob did differentiate between the important ‘use by’ date, and the ignorable ‘best before’ and ‘display until’ dates.

One avid Bitterwallet reader told us, from the comfort of his bathroom, that he had visited a relative who regularly ate food beyond its use by date. While the regular dodgy-food muncher had clearly developed guts of steel, our friend was quickly struck down with a bout of dire diarrhea. He had attempted to take some Immodium, but had discovered the medicine loses its effectiveness, almost to the point of having the opposite effect, when it too, is out of date.

So, in the interests of public service, as we, your Bitterwallet team strive to serve, here is the official FSA advice on what to do with leftovers.

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 5°C.

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 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 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.

Or just ring a takeaway.


  • confused c.
    Bob Martin, he's a Good Boy
  • steph
    A couple of months ago there was an article encouraging people to be more thrifty with their food! It suggested that people shouldn't worry about best before dates as this was just a guideline, and if the food didn't smell and looked ok to eat then it probably was. And now the official advice is don't take the chance. Marvellous!
  • zeddy
    @steph: Best Before dates are not the same as Use by ones. Remember that the next time you are shiting through the eye of a needle. Incidentally, what does salmonella, listeria or E. coli o157 smell like?
  • Shaniaa
    fanks for not using my name when you mentioned my diareah story!
  • Seymour
    @Steph, Learn the difference. best before = at it's best before its date, very slowly loses nutritional value thereafter Display Until = a law for shops displaying "fresh" goods use by = use it by "date" or face the consequences
  • klingelton
    when supermarkets start doing away with bulk purchasing deals and start offering food stuffs at sensible portions, the food wastage will go down. for example - (i know this stuff keeps but...) buy 2 get 2 free on robinsons squash the other night at tesco. it would take me and the wife over 2 months to get through that much squash! I don't want to buy 3 peppers - i want 2 for my recipe, so why is it cheaper to buy 3?!
  • Dick
    Also, don't allow cats to shit in your food.

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