Left-overs are an essential part of Christmas. The huge abundance of food that goes uneaten each year, finds its way into people’s fridges. It’s a consumer mindset that we can’t waste so much food. Christmas food is special, and it feels good to still eat it in the following days. Consumers generally throw caution to the wind during the festive period and that will extend until after Christmas Day.
However, this is also the time of year where there is a spike in the amount of people who contract food poisoning, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Left-overs are a great part of the season, but consumers need to be more aware about their food to prevent illness.
‘Use-By’ and ‘Best Before’ Dates Are Important
One of the biggest improvements to the public’s habit with left-overs is knowing the difference between use-by and sell-by dates. The term ‘sell-by’ doesn’t really exist in legislation, therefore the FSA encourages ‘use by’. The latter term is better for foods that have a shorter shelf-life and perishable. They are a considerable hazard to consumer health when eaten after the date stated. These include: fish, raw meat, dairy and some pre-packed salads.
The term ‘best before’ is used to indicate that the product should be consumed before this date as the quality diminishes. For example, eating bread before this date means that it will be less stale. ‘Best before’ is different to ‘use by’ because the food items are still safe to eat if the storage conditions are correct.
Left-Overs Need Proper Storage
Regarding left-overs, there are proper ways of storage and consuming that need to be taken into consideration. A lot of fridges will be stocked with left-over turkey, which is a high-risk food. These foods should be stored in the fridge and eaten within a maximum of two days. When storing food in the fridge, it is highly important that they’re completely cold before-hand. Relocating warm food straight to the fridge runs the risk of raising the temperature and potentially increasing bacterial growth. Furthermore, consumers need to be aware that freezing food still runs the risk of illness. Freezing simply pauses bacterial growth, rather than killing bacteria. If consumers need to freeze food, do so before the use by date and cook all the way through following defrosting.
When eating left-overs this this festive season, food safety always needs to be considered. Use-by dates need to be adhered to. A lot of consumers would more than likely rely on the smell or look of food as an indicator if it’s spoiled or not. Just because food looks edible, doesn’t make it so. Use-by dates are there for consumer safety and need to be treated as such.