Use by and best before dates causing confusion

Understanding labelling is key if you want to avoid food poisoning. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto
Understanding labelling is key if you want to avoid food poisoning. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto
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ONE in seven adults doesn’t understand the difference between “use by” and “best before” dates, putting themselves at risk of food poisoning, says research.

The study suggests that one in three has suffered from food poisoning (34 per cent) – more than have received an injury as a result of DIY (22 per cent).

We don’t spare a second thought for the fridge

Gareth Lane, Confused.com

Researchers found that when it comes to what might be making people ill, one in 13 (seven per cent) blame food they had stored in the fridge for too long, while a similar number (seven per cent) say it was because they ate food that had gone off.

One in 25 (four per cent) say their food poisoning was down to leftover food they had not heated up correctly.

And almost one in four (23 per cent) say they only clean their fridge once every three months, despite one in seven (15 per cent) admitting having spilt things in their fridge and not cleaned it up.

The survey of 2,000 adults for price comparison website Confused.com revealed that behind the fridge door, Britons are risking danger as more than a third (38 per cent) say they have found food that had gone off.

Researchers found people store a wide range of foods in their fridge - from common items such as cheese (89 per cent), milk (89 per cent) and butter (82 per cent) to riskier items, such as pet food (eight per cent).

One in 25 (four per cent) admits storing raw meat on the top shelf of their fridge, contrary to health guidelines and potentially putting the food below in danger of contamination.

With people storing food such as cooked meat (78 per cent), raw meat (68 per cent) and other leftover foods in their fridge, it is worrying to note that more than a fifth (22 per cent) say they store their food in no particular order.

Britons are even storing cooked meats in the fridge without a cover on it (nine per cent), whilst nearly a fifth (18 per cent) say they store half-used tins of food in their fridge.

When it comes to storing leftover food, three out of four (75 per cent) who keep them in the fridge aren’t writing the dates on their food. This could be why 18 per cent have found mouldy, forgotten food in their fridge.

And knowing when food should be eaten by seems to be causing confusion for many. More than one in eight (13 per cent) say they don’t understand the difference between “use by” and “best before” dates. Whilst best before might mean a food eaten beyond that date might have lost some flavour, use by means that food eaten after that date might be harmful.

More than one in five (21 per cent) say they simply don’t stick to the use by and best before dates on food. Of those who don’t stick to the dates, nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) say they think use by and best before dates are advisory and not something that need to be adhered to.

Gareth Lane, head of home insurance at Confused.com, said: “The fridge is the kind of appliance we don’t spare a second thought for and it would seem Britons are throwing in all manner of food, be it leftovers or fresh, and not really taking care of the actual fridge itself.”