Food Standards Agency
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FSA urges public to 'face freezer fears' in a bid to tackle food waste

Misconceptions about how to freeze food safely are contributing to food waste in the UK, according to new research by the Food Standards Agency.

The research – released as part of Food Safety Week (4-10 July) – identified a number of freezing 'myths' that are preventing people from using their freezers to make food go further. 43% of those interviewed think that food should only be frozen on the day of purchase to be safe; 38% incorrectly said it is dangerous to refreeze meat after it has been cooked; and 36% wrongly believe that food can become unsafe to eat while in the freezer.

Over two thirds (68%) of the people surveyed have thrown food away in the past month, with bread (36%), fruit (31%), vegetables (31%) and leftover meals (22%) topping the list. The most common reason given for throwing food away is that it is past its ‘use by’ day, cited by over a third (36%) of respondents. 30% admit to throwing food away as they had bought too much and didn’t eat it, and over half (54%) 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 90% of people say there are foods they would never freeze. Almost a quarter (23%) of those surveyed would never freeze meat that was cooked after defrosting, with 73% of these people saying this is down to worries about food poisoning.

Every year, we throw away seven million tonnes of food and drink from our homes

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. 31% of the people we spoke to 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 lovefoodhatewaste.com'

For more information on how to reduce waste and freeze food safely, visitwww.food.gov.uk/useby or follow @foodgov #EatitCookitFreezeit on Twitter for tips and advice throughout Food Safety Week.

Read the report

Food waste research: summary findings (416.41 KB)

Useful links

Food waste

In the UK, we throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year. Small changes will make a big difference, and everyone can play their part.

Use by and best before dates

Did you know that use by date is about safety and best before date is about quality? Use our quick tips to save money, make time and reduce waste by eating, cooking or freezing food by its use by date.

 

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