Rising cost of living is compromising food safety

Almost a third of people in the survey 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.”

Steve Nash, a campaigner on E. coli O157 is very concerned, particularly since across England, Scotland and Wales, 192 cases of genetically linked cases of E. coli (STEC) O157 had been identified in September alone. He 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 redistributing “wonky” 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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