Misconceptions about how to freeze food safely are contributing to food waste in the UK, according to new research by the Food Standards Agency.
The research – released as part of Food Safety Week – identified a number of freezing ‘myths’ that are preventing people from using their freezers to make food go further. 43% of those interviewed think that food should only be frozen on the day of purchase to be safe; 38% incorrectly said it is dangerous to refreeze meat after it has been cooked; and 36% wrongly believe that food can become unsafe to eat while in the freezer.
Over two thirds (68%) of the people surveyed have thrown food away in the past 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 is past its ‘use by’ day, cited by over a third (36%) of respondents. 30% admit to throwing food away as they had bought too much and didn’t eat it, and over half (54%) say they feel guilty when they throw food away. However, the reasons given can all be avoided by making better use of the freezer.
In response, the FSA is focusing on helping people to understand how to waste less food safely by making more of their freezers and will be launching a review of the guidance provided to the food industry on date marking on food. This will include consideration for whether the remit of the guidance should be expanded to cover food storage and freezing advice for consumers.
The research also found that 90% of people say there are foods they would never freeze. Almost a quarter (23%) of those surveyed would never freeze meat that was cooked after defrosting, with 73% of these people saying this is down to worries about food poisoning.
The FSA suggests 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, its quality deteriorates over time and they 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.