Cost of living crisis: poisoning risk as half of Scots eat food past its 'use by' date

Scotland’s food safety watchdog has express concern after a survey revealed half of those questioned admitted to eating out-of-date ingredients due to the rising cost of living.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) described the findings of the survey as "worrying”, as consumer confidence in the ability to meet price rises slumps.

The agency said 50 per cent of consumers in Scotland had admitted to eating food that had passed its ‘use-by’ date in order to save money. Others admitted to even switching their fridge off to cut energy costs.

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A survey of more than 1,000 respondents asked a series of questions linked to behaviours related to food and the cost-of-living crisis. It was commissioned following the recent FSS consumer tracker survey, which revealed increasing levels of concern about food affordability in Scotland.

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A total of 70 per cent of those surveyed revealed they were more worried now than in April about being able to afford food, while 41 per cent were changing cooking behaviours and methods to try and save money.

Around 10 per cent of respondents had changed the temperature of the thermostat in their fridge, with a further 2 per cent turning their fridges off for a period of time to reduce energy bills.

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Jacqui McElhiney, head of science at FSS, said: “While we were expecting the results of the survey to demonstrate some behaviour changes in relation to how consumers are buying and preparing food, it's concerning that so many people are adopting practices which could put them at increased risk of food poisoning.

“Perishable foods can become unsafe to eat when they are stored past their use by date, especially when they are not kept chilled. Saving energy and avoiding food waste are always priorities, but we must also remember the importance of food safety. There is a range of helpful advice and tips available for consumers on the FSS website.

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A previous study found 81 per cent threw away uneaten items at least once a week . Milk, cucumber and potatoes among the most common weekly leftovers.

“This survey has shown us that the cost-of-living crisis is driving consumer behaviour with the potential to negatively impact public health. We are here to help protect consumers from food safety risks.

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"While we understand that this is only one part of a much larger scale issue and appreciate the predicament that many consumers face, it makes our own role in helping the people of Scotland to avoid the risk of food poisoning even more important.”

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