It’s Food Safety Week this week, so we’ve invited the Food Standards Agency to come along and give us some top tips on food safety. They tell us how to make sure there’s nothing lurking in your leftovers.
Most of us will have seen our weekly shopping bills increase during the past few years, and tucking into the leftovers is a simple way to make meals go further. But at the Food Standards Agency, we’ve also seen an increase in people taking risks with their health by not storing or handling food safely.
This week is Food Safety Week, and it’s the perfect time to remind ourselves of some common sense advice for food safety for the whole year (and also how we can save some pennies on our weekly food budget).
Research carried out on behalf of the Food Standards Agency found 98% of people believe the cost of their typical shopping basket has gone up in the past three years, and half of us are trying to make better use of leftover food.
Mythbusting: smelling for safety
But the research also found that some people are keeping leftover food for longer than the recommended two days in the fridge, while others are more likely to judge the safety of their food on smell and look rather than by its ‘use by’ date.
This is one of the biggest myths that we regularly have to dispel – it’s tempting just to give your food a sniff to see if you think it’s off, but food bugs like E. coli and salmonella don’t cause food to smell ‘off’. So food could look and smell fine but still harm you. We advise you stick to either the ‘use by’ date (eat, cook with or freeze by this date), or if they’re leftovers, eat them within two days.
Top 5 tips for leftovers
- Allow leftovers to cool as quickly as possible, cover them well, get them in the fridge (ideally within 90 minutes) and eat them within two days.
- If you are going to freeze leftovers, cool them before putting them in your freezer, to minimise temperature fluctuation in the freezer. Once food is in the freezer, it can be safely stored there forever, but the quality will deteriorate so it’s best to eat it within 3 months.
- Make sure you defrost leftovers properly first – overnight in the fridge is best, or in the microwave if you’re going to cook them straightaway.
- Eat leftovers within 24 hours of defrosting and do not refreeze. The only exception to this is if you are defrosting raw food, such as meat or poultry, which can be refrozen after it’s been cooked.
- Cook leftovers until steaming hot throughout.
We want people to make better use of leftovers, reduce waste and save money. To get you started, here’s a recipe we published to make use of some of your chicken leftovers – so with this in mind, take a look in your fridge and let us know what creative dishes you can rustle up from what’s lurking in there. How do you make the most of your leftovers?
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Lorna Rowswell, Food Safety Expert at the Food Standards Agency – all opinions expressed here are their own, not necessarily those of Which?