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Don't take a health risk with food; AGENCY EXPERTS HIGHLIGHT THE RISK OF COST CUTTING.

make their food and budgets go further.

The research showed 97% of the people questioned across the UK believed the cost of their typical shopping basket has gone up significantly in the last three years, with half trying to make better use of leftover food. Some people are ignoring 'use by' dates more than they did in the past. Others are keeping leftovers longer than the recommended limit of two days in the fridge.

The FSA is reminding people not to take risks as budgets are squeezed. Rob Wilkins, a food safety expert at the FSA in Cardiff, said: "Unless we're careful, there's a chance we can risk food poisoning by not storing or handling them properly. We encourage people to view their fridge as their friend and make the most of leftovers whilst staying safe."

There are around a million cases of food poisoning every year in the UK. The levels increase in summer with around 120,000 extra cases from June to August. One reason is warmer temperatures causing any germs present to grow faster, which underlines the importance of getting leftovers in the fridge quickly.

The FSA's 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, then eat them within two days.

. ? Make sure your fridge is operating at the correct temperature, it should be below 5o[bar]C. ? You can freeze leftovers, but cool them first to minimise temperature fluctuation in your freezer. They can be safely stored in the freezer, but the quality will still 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 them 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.

Georgina Taubman, Waste Reduction Officer, at the Love Food Hate Waste Cymru campaign, said: "Making the most of the food we buy is increasingly important to us all with ever tighter household budgets, but we're still wasting 20% of the food we buy. " According to the FSA's research, people are also risking food poisoning by ignoring 'use by' dates more than they used to. 'Use by' dates are the most important date on the food label.

Researchers found that a third of people were more likely to judge when food is safe to eat by its smell, look or how long it's been stored.

Rob Wilkins says: "Whilst people in Wales agree strongly that using leftovers is a good way to save money, they also tend to use personal judgement rather than Use by dates.

"It's tempting to just give your food a sniff to see if you think it's gone 'off', but food bugs like E.coli and salmonella don't cause food to smell off, even when they may have grown to dangerous levels. Food could look and smell fine but still be harmful.

"These dates provide helpful information on how long food will stay safe for, so it's very important you stick to the Use By date."

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It is important to check the 'use by' date when buying food
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 17, 2012
Words:584
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