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Food and You 2: Wave 4 Key findings

Chapter 6: Eating at home

The FSA is responsible for protecting the public from foodborne diseases. This involves working with farmers, food producers and processors, and the retail and hospitality sectors to ensure that the food people buy is safe.

Last updated: 10 August 2022

Introduction

Since people are responsible for the safe preparation and storage of food in their home, Food and You 2 asks respondents about their food-related behaviours in the home, including whether specific foods are eaten, and knowledge and reported behaviour in relation to five important aspects of food safety: cleaning, cooking, chilling, avoiding cross-contamination and use-by dates. The FSA gives practical guidance and recommendations to consumers on food safety and hygiene in the home. Food and You 2 also asks respondents about the frequency with which they prepare or consume certain types of food. 

Two versions of the ‘Eating at home’ module have been created, a brief version which includes a limited number of key questions, and a fuller version which includes all related questions. The brief ‘Eating at home’ module was included in the Wave 4 survey and is reported in this chapter(footnote).

This chapter provides an overview of respondent knowledge, attitudes and behaviours relating to food safety, diet, and other food-related behaviours.

Cleaning

Handwashing in home

The FSA recommends that everyone should wash their hands before they prepare, cook or eat food and after touching raw food, before handling ready-to-eat food. 

The majority (73%) of respondents reported that they always wash their hands before preparing or cooking food. However, 26% of respondents reported that they do not always (for example, most of the time or less often) wash their hands before preparing or cooking food(footnote)

Most respondents (91%) reported that they always wash their hands immediately after handling raw meat, poultry, or fish. However, 8% of respondents reported that they do not always (for example, most of the time or less often) wash their hands immediately after handling raw meat, poultry or fish(footnote).

Handwashing when eating out

Respondents were asked, how often, if at all, they washed their hands or used hand sanitising gel or wipes before eating when they ate outside of their home. Around half (46%) of respondents reported that they always washed their hands, used hand sanitising gel or wipes when they ate outside of their home, 49% did this less often (for example, most of the time or less often) and 4% never did this(footnote).

Chilling

The FSA provides guidance on how to chill food properly to help stop harmful bacteria growing. 

If and how respondents check fridge temperature

When asked what temperature the inside of a fridge should be, 62% of respondents reported that it should be between 0-5 degrees Celsius. Almost 1 in 5 (19%) respondents reported that the temperature should be above 5 degrees, 3% reported that the temperature should be below 0 degrees, and 16% of respondents did not know what temperature the inside of their fridge should be(footnote)

Almost half of respondents who have a fridge reported that they monitored the temperature, either manually (47%) or via an internal temperature alarm (10%)(footnote). Of the respondents who monitor the temperature of their fridge, 84% reported that they check the temperature of their fridge at least once a month, as recommended by the FSA(footnote).

Cooking

The FSA recommends that cooking food at the right temperature and for the correct length of time will ensure that any harmful bacteria are killed. When cooking pork, poultry, and minced meat products the FSA recommends that the meat is steaming hot and cooked all the way through, that none of the meat is pink and that any juices run clear. 

The majority (79%) of respondents reported that they always cook food until it is steaming hot and cooked all the way through, however 21% reported that they do not always do this(footnote)

When respondents were asked to indicate how often they eat chicken or turkey when the meat is pink or has pink juicesP64F P, the majority (91%) reported that they never eat chicken or turkey when it is pink or has pink juices(footnote). However, 7% of respondents reported eating chicken or turkey at least occasionally when it is pink(footnote)

Reheating

Figure 20. Checking that the middle is hot is the most common method to check food is reheated and ready to eat

Graph explained in the text.
Methods used Percentage of respondents (%)
Use a thermometer / probe 9
Put my hand over / touch it 14
Taste it 23
Check it is an even temperature throughout 27

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Source Food and You 2 Wave 4

Respondents were asked to indicate how they check food is ready to eat when they reheat it. The most common method was to check the middle is hot (59%), and the least common method was to use a thermometer or probe (9%) (Figure 20)(footnote).

When respondents were asked how many times they would reheat food, the majority reported that they would only reheat food once (81%), 10% would reheat food twice, and 3% would reheat food more than twice(footnote).

Leftovers

Respondents were asked how long they would keep leftovers in the fridge for. Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents reported that they would eat leftovers within 2 days, around a quarter (26%) of respondents reported that they would eat leftovers within 3-5 days and only 2% would eat leftovers after 5 days or longer(footnote).  

Avoiding cross-contamination

The FSA provides guidelines on how to avoid cross-contamination. The FSA recommends that people do not wash raw meat. Washing raw meat can spread harmful bacteria onto your hands, clothes, utensils, and worktops.

Over half of respondents (56%) reported that they never wash raw chicken, whilst 40% of respondents wash raw chicken at least occasionally (for example, occasionally or more often)(footnote).  

How and where respondents store raw meat and poultry in the fridge

The FSA recommends that refrigerated raw meat and poultry is kept covered, separately from ready-to-eat foods and stored at the bottom of the fridge to avoid cross-contamination.

Respondents were asked to indicate, from a range of responses, how they store meat and poultry in the fridge. Respondents were most likely to report storing raw meat and poultry in its original packaging (67%) or away from cooked foods (49%). A third of respondents reported storing raw meat and poultry covered with film/foil (33%) or in a sealed container (34%), with fewer keeping the product on a plate (13%)(footnote). 

Two-thirds (66%) of respondents reported storing raw meat and poultry at the bottom of the fridge, as recommended by the FSA. However, 2 in 10 (20%) respondents reported storing raw meat and poultry wherever there is space in the fridge, 11% respondents reported storing raw meat and poultry in the middle of the fridge, and 5% at the top of the fridge(footnote).

Use-by and best before dates

Respondents were asked about their understanding of the different types of date labels and instructions on food packaging, as storing food for too long or at the wrong temperature can cause food poisoning. Use-by dates relate to food safety. Best before (BBE) dates relate to food quality.

Respondents were asked to indicate which date shows that food is no longer safe to eat. In accordance with FSA recommendations, over two-thirds (69%) of respondents identified the use-by date as the information which shows that food is no longer safe to eat. However, 9% of respondents identified the best before date as the date which shows food is no longer safe to eat(footnote)

Around two-thirds (67%) of respondents reported that they always check use-by dates before they cook or prepare food and around a quarter (23%) of respondents did this 3Tmost of the time. Almost 1 in 10 (8%) reported checking use-by less often (for example, about half the time or occasionally), and just 1% reported never checking use-by dates(footnote).

Figure 21: Types of food respondents had eaten after the use by date in the previous month

Data explained in the text.
Percentage of respondents Shellfish Other fish Smoked fish Raw meat
Not eaten food past UBD 90 82 76 71
Eaten food past the UBD 5 9 14 19

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Source Food and You 2 Wave 4

Respondents who had eaten certain foods in the last month were asked to indicate if they had eaten that food past the use-by date. Of these respondents, most reported that they had not eaten shellfish (90%), other fish (82%), smoked fish (76%) or raw meat (such as beef, lamb, pork or poultry) (71%) past the use-by date in the previous month. Whereas over half of respondents had not consumed milk (57%), cooked meat (56%) or yoghurt (53%) past the use-by date in the previous month. Less than half of respondents had eaten bagged salad (46%) or cheese (42%) past the use-by date in the previous month (Figure 21)(footnote).

Figure 22: How long after the use-by-date respondents would consume different foods

Data explained in the text.
Percentage of respondents Cheese Bagged salad Yoghurt Cooked meat
More than 1 week 17 1 5 1
5 - 6 days 12 4 6 3
3 - 4 days 16 19 13 12
1 - 2 days 25 45 36 40

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Source Food and You 2 Wave 4

Respondents who eat certain foods were asked when, if at all, is the latest that they would eat the type of food after the use-by date. Of these respondents, most reported that they would not eat shellfish (77%), other fish (68%) past the use-by date. Over half of respondents would not eat raw meat (56%) or smoked fish (53%) past the use-by date. When foods are eaten past the use-by date, they are typically eaten 1-2 days after the use-by date (for example, 45% of respondents would eat bagged salads 1-2 days after the use-by date). Of the specified foods, respondents reported that they would be most likely to eat bagged salad and cheese after the use-by date: around 7 in 10 respondents would eat bagged salad (70%) and cheese (71%) after the use-by date. Almost 2 in 10 (17%) respondents would eat cheese more than 1 week after the use-by date (Figure 22)(footnote).