A food’s ‘Use by’ label is the most important guide in terms of consuming it. This is because it determines up until when it is still safe to eat as harmful, odourless germs cannot often be detected by the naked eye. Food bugs like E. coli and salmonella don’t cause food to smell bad, even when they have reached dangerous levels. In fact, food riddled with these bacteria can smell and look completely normal under the right conditions.
This is why it’s important to understand the difference between ‘Use by’ and ‘Best before’ and act accordingly. Foods that have the ‘use by’ label generally perish quite quickly and can be dangerous to eat after that date. Food with the ‘best before’ label are generally longer lasting products and could be safe to eat after that date, but may not be at its best quality.
Across the country food poisoning occurrences surge during the summer months and this can be directly linked to warmer temperatures causing increased germ growth. This is why it’s always a good idea prepare your meal before you simply go shopping because you may have food left in the fridge or cupboard that needs to be used. Always try to use food products before their ‘use by’ date. Other tips when shopping should be to be wary of “3 for 2” deals because you could end up with more than you need and as a result not be able to eat that food before the ‘use by’ date. If you want to take advantage of bulk deals then check to see if those products can be frozen to preserve them.
Once you have bought your food it’s important that you store it correctly to preserve it for as long as possible. Certain foods need to be kept in the fridge to prevent bacteria growth and many specialists recommend having a fridge temperature no higher than 5°C. When you prepare food try to keep it out of the fridge for the shortest period possible. If you are someone who likes to throw parties and buffet is on the menu it’s a good idea to keep the food refrigerated for as long as possible before serving. If you have left overs after cooking try to cool them as quickly as possible, ideally within 90 minutes and get them straight into the fridge.
One final thing to bear in mind regarding tinned foods, never place them in the fridge because the metal may transfer into the food contents which can be damaging to health. Either remove contents and store in a different container or place in a covered bowl instead.
Meat is one of the most dangerous foodstuffs and if not stored correctly, it can cause a terrible upset. All meat should be stored in the fridge to stop bacteria spreading and leading to food poisoning. When storing raw meat and poultry it should be in a clean, sealed container on the bottom shelf of the fridge so they can’t touch or drip onto other products. Always follow storage instructions and don’t eat any meat past its ‘use by’ date. When freezing these types of foods, know that it’s safe to freeze meat and fish as long as it’s frozen before its ‘use by’ date. Always make sure to defrost thoroughly before cooking and place in a bowl to prevent the liquid from spreading onto other things in the kitchen. Finally, never refreeze meat, fish or poultry after it has defrosted.