Research into food safety attitudes of older people shows they are often reluctant to throw away food and are also confused by food labelling, particularly the difference between ‘Use by’ and ‘Best before’ dates.
Eating food past its ‘Use by’ date increases the risk of food poisoning from listeria, which can be found in a wide range of chilled ready-to-eat foods, including cooked sliced meats, soft cheeses, coleslaw and pates. The bacteria are destroyed by cooking.
The ‘Use by’ label is a safety guide and mandatory on products that have a short shelf life such as milk, cheese, deli products (e.g. pate and ham) and ready meals. The label ‘best before ’ is advice on quality and usually appears on fruit and vegetables, as well as tinned goods with a longer shelf-life. Eggs should not be consumed after the ‘Best before’ date. Labelling is mandatory under EU law.
Food Safety Tips
• Eat freshly cooked and well-washed fruit and vegetables.
• Highly vulnerable groups should avoid cheeses ripened by mould (such as camembert, stilton and blue cheese), meat or vegetable pates (tinned pate is okay).
• Be careful with salads and coleslaws.
• Keep cooked and raw food separate.
• When eating out choose a hot freshly cooked meal.
• Make sure you fully cook ready-meals.
• With cooked food, cool as quickly as possible, cover it and put into the fridge. Eat leftovers within three days – never reheat more than once. Soups, sauces and gravies should start to boil and stir to reheat evenly.
• Follow label advice on ‘Use by’ and ‘Best before’ date.
• If you open a product before the ‘Use by’ date, e.g. sliced ham, observe the label advice on finishing the food within a certain time frame.
• Keep the fridge temperature at no more than 5 degrees Celsius. Use a special fridge thermometer
• Unpack and store frozen and chilled foods promptly after shopping.
• Avoid buying food with damaged or torn packaging, bulging or dented cans and dirty or cracked eggs.
FROZEN IS JUST AS GOOD AS FRESH
We often think that when something is fresh it is better for us, but this is not always the case. Frozen vegetables can be at least as good, and in some cases can be better than fresh. This is because nutrient levels start to drop as soon as something is harvested, and the longer fresh fruit and vegetables are stored, the more some nutrients degrade. Frozen food however tends to be frozen within hours of being picked to retain the nutrients. To hit your target of five portions a day, it is perfectly acceptable to mix fresh, frozen and tinned produce.
Season with spices instead of salt. Too much salt (sodium) can contribute to high blood pressure which can increase the risk of heart disease. Protect arteries and heart by flavouring meals with pepper, spices and seasoning mixtures. When choosing seasoning mixtures remember to check the labels to be sure they do not contain garlic salt or other types of salt. Read the Labels