The Food Standard Agency (FSA) has warned that common myths and misconceptions surrounding freezing has led to people throwing away unspoiled food, leading to large amounts being wasted throughout the country.
Released as part of Food Safety week, which lasts until July 10, the FSA found that out of 1,500 people interviewed, 43 per cent thought that food only frozen on the day of purchase would be safe to eat.
A further 38 per cent said it was dangerous to refreeze meat and another 36 per cent thought that food can become “unsafe” to eat while in the freezer.
The UK throws over seven million tonnes of food away every single year, though some of the largest supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s have pledged to do more to help people conserve their food waste.
Steve Wearne, director of policy, reminded people that the freezer can be in fact viewed as a sort of “pause button” for food.
What’s more, 67 per cent of people stated that they had thrown food away in the past month including bread (36 per cent), fruit (31 per cent), vegetables (31 per cent), and leftover meals (22 per cent).
The research also highlighted reasons for people throwing away food, which included items having gone past their used by date (36 per cent), as well as buying too much food and throwing it away (30 per cent).
Despite this, over half stated that they felt guilty when they had to throw the food away. The FSA states that all over the above reasons can be avoided by simply making greater use of the freezer.
Wearne said that:
Every year, we throw away seven million tonnes of food and drink from our homes.
“Much of this waste is unnecessary, and a better understanding of how to freeze food safely could go a significant way towards tackling the problem.”
He continued by assuring people that they could still eat food from the freezer once it had passed its used by date as “it’s the quality that deteriorates over time” and that people can eat frozen food within three to six months and to check the freezing instructions on the packaging.
He also said that it was important to remember that once food is defrosted, it is important to eat it within 24 hours of it being defrosted.
Helen White, food waste expert at Love Food Hate Waste, said that:
In the UK each household wastes the equivalent of about six meals a week, which is bad for our pockets and the planet!
“Reducing food waste is a big challenge, so the Love Food Hate Waste campaign is delighted to lend its support to Food Safety Week, which aims to raise awareness of this important issue.”
It is important to know when it is safe to freeze food, as most types of bacteria survive freezing, but become inactive while frozen. The food will therefore remain edible, although due to ice crystal damage, its quality will wane over time.
Experts also recommend that food is defrosted slowly and safely, with it best being done overnight in the fridge to reduce the risk of bacterial growth as once defrosted, foods can spoil as easily as they can raw.
Despite this, refrozen food actually has a higher risk of causing food poisoning, as once re-thawed, bacteria can rapidly multiply. If defrosted meat is then cooked, the bacteria will be killed off in the heating process, so it can then be refrozen.
Out of the 1,500 surveyed, 38 per cent of people thought it was dangerous to refreeze meat after it had been cooked with almost a quarter (23 per cent) saying that they would never freeze meat that was cooked after defrosting.