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Consumers unsure about freezing food

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) says that misconceptions about how to freeze food safely are contributing to food waste.

Research from the FSA to coincide with Food Safety Week identified a number of ‘myths’ it said were preventing people from using freezers to make their food go further.

The report comes as the FSA, Defra and WRAP are launching a review of the guidance provided to the food industry on date marking of food. The FSA says the guidance could cover food storage and freezing advice for consumers.

Respondents to an FSA survey indicated that:

  • 43% think food should only be frozen on the day of purchase to be safe
  • 38% incorrectly think it is dangerous to refreeze meat after it has been cooked
  • 36% wrongly believe food can become unsafe to eat while in the freezer

More than two-thirds (68%) of the people surveyed had thrown food away in the last month, with bread (36%), fruit (31%), vegetables (31%) and leftover meals (22%) topping the list.

The most common reason given for throwing food away is that it was past its ‘use by’ date, cited by more than a third (36%) of respondents. Three in 10 admit to throwing food away after buying too much and not eating it, while more than half (54%) say they feel guilty when they throw food away.

Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA, said: “Our research shows that many of the fears the public has about freezing food are unfounded and we need to ensure they know the facts.

”The freezer is like a pause button, so you can freeze foods right up to the ’use by’ date. While food is kept safe in the freezer, it is the quality that deteriorates over time, so we recommend eating it within three to six months and checking for any freezing instructions on the packaging.

”Once defrosted, the pause button is off, so defrost food as and when you need it and eat it within 24 hours of it being fully defrosted.”

Helen White, WRAP’s consumer food prevention manager, said: “Freezing food is one of the little things we can all do to make a big difference and the best bit is that most foods can be frozen – even those you wouldn’t expect.”

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