MISCONCEPTIONS about how to freeze food safely are contributing to food waste in Wales and across the UK, according to new research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The research – released as part of Food Safety Week (Jul 4 – 10) – identified a number of freezing ‘myths’ that are preventing people in Wales from using their freezers to make food go further. 37% of those interviewed think that food should only be frozen on the day of purchase to be safe; 34% incorrectly said it is dangerous to refreeze meat after it has been cooked; and 39% wrongly believe that food can become unsafe to eat while in the freezer.
Three quarters (75%) of people surveyed in Wales have thrown food away in the past month, with bread (46%), fruit (39%), vegetables (34%) and leftover meals (25%) topping the list. The most common reason given by respondents in Wales for throwing food away is that they had bought too much of it, cited by 34% of people. 31% admit to throwing food away because it was past its ‘use by’ date, and over half (56%) say they feel guilty when they throw food away. However, the reasons given can all be avoided by making better use of the freezer.
In response, the FSA is focusing this year’s Food Safety Week on helping people to understand how to waste less food safely by making more of their freezers. Furthermore, the FSA, working with Defra and WRAP, has announced that it will be launching a review of the guidance provided to the food industry on date marking on food. This will include consideration for whether the remit of the guidance should be expanded to cover food storage and freezing advice for consumers.
The research also found that 93% of people in Wales say there are foods they would never freeze. A quarter (25%) of those surveyed in Wales would never freeze meat that was cooked after defrosting, with 78% of these people saying this is down to worries about food poisoning.
Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said:
“Every year, we throw away seven million tonnes of food and drink from our homes. Much of this waste is unnecessary, and a better understanding of how to freeze food safely could go a significant way towards tackling the problem.
“Our research shows that many of the fears the public has about freezing food are unfounded and we need to ensure they know the facts. 33% of the people we spoke to in Wales said that more information about how to safely freeze food would help them to reduce their food waste – that’s why freezing is the focus of this year’s Food Safety Week.
“The freezer is like a pause button, so you can freeze foods right up to the ‘use by’ date. While food is kept safe in the freezer, it’s the quality that deteriorates over time, so we recommend eating it within three to six months and checking for any freezing instructions on the packaging. Once defrosted, the pause button is off, so defrost food as and when you need it and eat it within 24 hours of it being fully defrosted.”
Helen White, food waste expert at Love Food Hate Waste, said:
“In the UK each household wastes the equivalent of about six meals a week, which is bad for our pockets and the planet! Reducing food waste is a big challenge, so the Love Food Hate Waste campaign is delighted to lend its support to Food Safety Week, which aims to raise awareness of this important issue. Freezing food is one of the little things we can all do to make a big difference and the best bit is that most foods can be frozen – even those you wouldn’t expect! For more fantastic freezer facts, visit wales.lovefoodhatewaste.com or hoffibwydcasaugwastraff.com.”
Top 10 tips to help reduce food waste
1) Know the difference between “use by” and “best before” dates
“Use by” dates are the most important ones to consider, as these relate to food safety. Most foods can be frozen safely up until the “use by” date, but not after.
“Best before” dates are about quality, not safety. When the date is passed, it doesn’t mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.
2) Don’t trust the sniff test!
Food can look and smell fine even after its use-by date, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat. It could still be contaminated. You cannot see, smell or taste the bugs that cause food poisoning.
3) How long can I freeze things for and what about the Use by date?
Foods can be stored safely in a correctly functioning freezer for years without going off. The freezer is like a pause button, so you can freeze foods safely right up to the “use by” date. Whilst food is kept safe in the freezer, it’s the quality that deteriorates over time, so we recommend consumption within three to six months to ensure the best quality, and check for any freezing instructions on the packaging.
Once defrosted, the pause button is off, so it’s best to defrost food as required and eat within 24 hours of it being fully defrosted.
4) When should I freeze food?
Many people believe food can only be frozen on the day of purchase – as often recommended by retailers to preserve the quality of the food. However, you can safely freeze most foods right up to the “use by” date. Although it would be good to freeze the food as soon as you know you aren’t going to use it before its “use by” date expires.
5) Did you know that you can safely freeze raw and cooked meats?
You can cook defrosted meat into a new meal and freeze for use on another day. Simply defrost overnight in the fridge (be careful that raw meat doesn’t drip on any other foods in the fridge and check it is thoroughly defrosted), use within 24 hours and cook until steaming hot.
6) How long can you freeze meat for?
Generally you can freeze meat for a long time and it will still be safe to eat, but the quality will deteriorate so it’s best to eat it within three to six months to ensure it’s of the best quality. Don’t worry if it’s frozen for longer – try marinating it before cooking to improve texture or use herbs and spices to add flavour.
7) Make the most of multi buys
If you are taking advantage of multi buys or larger pack sizes (e.g chicken breasts) you can freeze them individually in smaller bags to avoid having to eat them all at once. You can also cook enough for two (or more!) meals and eat one and freeze some for later – this avoids waste and minimises the effort of cooking.
8) Batching cooking
Batch cooking, cooking new meals from leftovers and freezing of homemade foods, can be a great way of saving money (and time) and using up foods approaching their Use By date as well as reducing waste.
9) Wrap up
It is best to place food in an air tight container or wrap food well in freezer bags, freezer wrap or cling film before placing in the freezer otherwise the cold air will dry it out. Try to expel any air from freezer bags.
Try and get into the habit of checking what you already have in the fridge and freezer before you go shopping. Use up foods that are approaching their Use by date and other fresh foods like fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, cheese or milk first as these can go off over time.
Council tax reduction supports people on low incomes
A COUNCIL Tax Reduction Scheme is in place to help people who are on a low income. The council administers the scheme on behalf of the Welsh Government for people who are liable to pay Council Tax and who live in Ceredigion. With the recent decision to raise Council Tax by 7%, residents on low incomes are being urged to find out if they are entitled to some help towards paying their Council Tax.
People can be eligible for the reduction if they are on a low income, working or unemployed, cannot work because of illness, retired or are caring for someone. The amount of the reduction depends on a person’s circumstances and how much Council Tax they need to pay.
Councillor Gareth Lloyd is the Cabinet member responsible for Financial Services. He said, “We made the difficult decision to raise Council Tax by 7% to reduce the amount of cuts we have to make to council services. The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising.”
“We want to urge anyone who is on a low income to consider if they are eligible for Council Tax Reduction. Tax increases can add pressure onto people’s budgets, and although this increase is vital to keep quality services in Ceredigion, we want to make sure that anyone who is eligible for help gets it.”
For more information on eligibility and how to claim council tax reduction, email email@example.com or call 01970 633 252.
7% council tax increase to protect education funding
THE COUNCIL TAX in Ceredigion for 2019-2020 will increase by 7%. The increase was agreed by councillors to reduce the impact of cuts to the Council’s budget and, in particular, to protect education spending. The decision was made in a Council meeting on 21 February 2019.
2% of the 7% increase will be used to protect education spending. Schools budgets have been under severe stress after years of needing to make savings. Costs have increased yet again following the agreement of new teachers’ salary increases together with increased pension contributions. This extra 2% uplift will enable school budgets to be kept flat.
The council tax rate increase is set by three key components, the County Council’s tax, the precept of Town and Community Councils and the Police precept. Increases set by the Police and Town and Community Councils result in a combined increase of 7.56%.
Councillor Ellen ap Leader of the Council, said, “We had no option but to ask Council to increase Council Tax by 7% in order to reduce the impact of the cuts we have had to make across council budgets. A successful Ceredigion in the future needs well-funded and well run schools. We want to invest in the future of our children and our county.”
“The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising. The uplift of teachers’ salaries and pensions has not been fully funded by Welsh Government to date. If council tax had not increased, we would have to make deeper cuts.”
In 2018-2019, the average Council Tax Band D property was £1,226.48. The increase means that the same property will pay £1,312.33 in 2019-2020. The council’s budget has been cut by £39m or 25% in the last seven years. The Council will still need to save another £6m in the coming financial year.
Information management policies updated to improve security
THREE key information management policies have been updated by Ceredigion County Council. The policies were updated because of new laws and the need make sure that they are effective in a changing technological environment.
The updated policies were approved by the council’s Cabinet in a meeting on 19 February 2019.
The three policies that have been reviewed are:
· Data Protection/GDPR Policy
· Information Security Policy
· Information and Records Management Policy
The Deputy Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Cabinet member responsible for Governance, Councillor Ray Quant MBE said, “The council needs to keep information and data to carry out the many service we provide. Because of this we have to make sure we’re up to date on data and information protections laws. This decision means that we have approved the hard work done to update the policies and make sure that they are fit for use.”
The policies are essential to manage digital and paper records of the council.
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