Last updated on 11 June 2012
Northern Ireland households could save £480 a year by making the most of food leftovers
Northern Ireland shoppers could save around £480 a year a household by cutting down on the amount of food they waste, according to new research for this year’s Food Safety Week (June 11 to 17). These savings could be made simply through better planning when food shopping and better use of food labels.
This year’s Food Safety Week highlights the importance of good food practice in the home to help people stay safe, save money and reduce food waste. This can be done by planning ahead, checking ‘use by’ dates and using leftovers. While almost one in four consumers now use leftover food more than they used to, recent research has also found more than a third of Northern Ireland shoppers believe ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates on food labels mean the same thing.
The Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland (FSA in NI), safefood, the Department of the Environment’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign and district councils, are all working together to help consumers reduce their food waste.
Kathryn Baker, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland says: ‘Food Safety Week is a great opportunity to highlight practical ways people can safely make their foods go further and save themselves some money in the process. Cooked leftovers can be safely frozen for future use while raw foods from the freezer can be defrosted, cooked thoroughly and then frozen again one further time. By following some simple steps such as cooling leftovers as quickly as possible, covering and storing them in the fridge for no more than two to three days (one day for leftover rice) and reheating them until they are steaming hot, people can also reduce the risk of food poisoning in the home. Our campaign includes great recipe tips for using leftovers which can help reduce food waste too.’
Launching the campaign, Environment Minister Alex Attwood MLA said: ‘Food safety and food waste minimisation go hand in hand together. There are many ways to use leftover everyday foods in our kitchens safely, to make delicious meals and snacks no matter what your taste buds. As well as saving you money, using smart and savvy ways to use your leftovers also significantly reduces our contributions to landfill. I would encourage everyone to rethink not only their cooking habits but their shopping, storage and meal planning habits as well. Making small changes can really help to make a difference. What I and my Department are about is making Northern Ireland a better place to live, work and invest. Becoming more food smart will help make a significant contribution to this goal.’
Speaking at the launch, Lord Mayor of Belfast Cllr Gavin Robinson said: ‘It’s vital to raise awareness among consumers about the difference between “best before” and “use by” dates if we are to reduce the amount of food waste we produce. Food Safety Week highlights the importance of meal planning and food safety in the home, which is particularly relevant in these difficult economic times when we’re all trying to cut down on household bills. It’s timely, too, that Food Safety Week comes before Waste Week, which also raises the issue of reducing our overall waste and it’s a message that Belfast City Council is very keen to support.’
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!’
Working in partnership with the 26 councils, safefood, the FSA and the Department of the Environment’s ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ initiative are running 11 cookery demonstrations across Northern Ireland to coincide with Food Safety Week to show consumers just how to get the best from their leftovers while also keeping up good food hygiene habits at home. Free recipe cards will be available from each participating council and at the cookery demonstrations.
- Less than half (48%) of consumers in NI make a list before they go shopping.
- Fewer than 1 in 5 consumers in NI (19%) plan their meals for the week in advance.
- More than a third of consumers (34%) in NI believe ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ mean the same thing.
- Almost 1 in 4 consumers in NI (23%) agree they use leftover food more than they used to.
- Only four in ten consumers in NI stick to ‘use by’ dates’.
For more advice and tips on simple ways to reduce food waste, visit the Love Food Hate Waste website.
Notes for editors
1. Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK: A report containing quantification of the amount and types of household food and drink waste in the UK (WRAP 2009)
2. Food Standards Agency Food Safety Week Research (Harris Interactive/FSA 2012)
3. safetrak 11 Consumer Research (Millward Brown Lansdowne, safefood 2011)