Food Safety Week
12 June 2012
Today is the start of Food Safety Week, and Environmental Health is reminding people not to take risks with food safety, even as budgets are squeezed.
For this year’s Food Safety Week which takes place from 11th-17th June, safefood, the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland (FSA in NI), the Department of the Environment’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign and District Councils are highlighting the importance of good food safety in the home which can help people stay safe, save money and reduce food waste. This can be done by planning ahead, checking ‘use by’ dates and using leftovers
'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. During Food Safety Week we are encouraging people to view their fridge as their friend, and make the most of leftovers while staying safe.'
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. One of the reasons is that warmer temperatures cause any germs present to grow faster, which underlines the importance of getting leftovers in the fridge quickly.
The Environmental Health advice on leftovers is:
- 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.
Dr David McCleery, safefood adds; “Knowing the difference between ‘best before’ and ’use by’ dates on food labels can give consumers the confidence that they are staying safe from food poisoning while cutting down on the amount of food they throw out unnecessarily. Use by dates are displayed on perishable foods that go off quickly and it can be dangerous to eat food past this date, so always check them first; these foods should also be stored correctly, typically in the fridge at less than 5ºC. Best before dates appear on foods with a longer shelf life and give an indication of quality – eating foods after their best before date doesn’t mean they’re unsafe but that their quality may reduce over time. But as with any food, if in doubt, throw it out!”
For further information please contact:
Owen Fulton Lead Environmental Health Officer
Telephone: 028 93358000