Now I did have a whole other blog post lined up for this evening, but having read this article on the BBC about people taking more food risks because of the recession, I felt I had to write something on it.
“An FSA survey of nearly 2,000 people across the UK suggested more than half were trying to make better use of leftover food.
This included ignoring use-by dates, as well as keeping leftovers in the fridge for long periods of time.”
As I’m sure you can imagine, I make food last a long time. I mean a seriously long time. There’s no chucking out a cucumber because the end has got a little shrivelled. No, the end gets cut off and the cucumber gets used again. Leftovers go on as long as they last, or if it looks unlikely that I will eat them within five days, they get put in the freezer for another time. Eggs are kept in the cupboard and assumed safe unless they float in a glass of cold water. ‘Best by’ dates are irrelevant to me and ‘use-by’ dates are more of a guideline.
I’ve followed these rules since I moved out of my parents’ home when I first started university and the only time I’ve ever had food poisoning since then was on holiday in Croatia last year thanks to a dodgy prawn risotto at a restaurant. I also once had a stomach bug. There have been admittedly some close calls along the way. Only a few weeks ago I was unsure whether some milk was still edible and figured that the only way to tell was by drinking it. It was not fit for human consumption by any stretch of the imagination. But I got as much use out of that carton of milk as I could up until that point, let me tell you.
My problem with this latest article is that only a year ago we were informed that the government was bringing in new labelling guidelines to stop unnecessary household waste. I embraced this news knowing full well how pointless some of the packaging is. According to WRAP we throw away more than 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year from our homes – most of which could have been safely consumed. A lot of this is fruit and vegetables (most families’ admirable attempts at getting their five a day!). Yet now we’re being told that we’re doing harm to ourselves.
I never caught the programme myself, but I do remember the adverts for Jonathan Maitland’s experiment a few years ago with ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’ products, which is summarised in this article here. Each day Jonathan ate increasingly out-of-date food to find out the truth about ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’ dates. And do you know what? He didn’t get a single stomach complaint, even after a slice of toasted mouldy bread and an Asda Chinese Chicken in Black Bean Sauce ready meal, eight days past its ‘use-by’ date.
Now I’m not saying everyone should go out and consume gone off food. If chicken is slimy and smells, it’s probably best to avoid it and eating green bread is way too extreme even for me. I’m just saying that it’s easy to use your common sense, particularly if you are a foodie. Our bodies are trained to avoid things that are bad for use – I definitely rejected the sour milk immediately.
So if your red pepper is four days past its ‘best before’ but hasn’t fallen into a wrinkly heap in the fridge, then make sure you whack it in your stir fry. And if you don’t feel like eating the second half of your tin of beans for another five days, they’re probably going to be ok. Although leaving the beans in its tin is a whole other issue.
Just think how much money you save by not sticking rigidly to these set of instructions given to use by the supermarkets. After all, they’re the ones who will benefit when you need to go out and restock your fridge after your purge.