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UK survey shows scale of food safety mistakes


A survey has found some people in the United Kingdom taste food to see if it’s spoiled and others ignore use-by dates.

Research by white goods retailer Currys covered storage habits and methods people use to tell when food is off. The poll was conducted with 2,026 people across the UK in summer this year.

Currys looked at the topic as part of ongoing research into how to be safer in the kitchen, especially when it comes to proper use of refrigerators and storing food. They also partnered with a microbiologist to give people advice on best practices.

To some, the use-by date is like a guideline, while others follow them strictly. The survey revealed more than 18 percent of British people have given themselves food poisoning in the past.

Bad practice
Almost 1 in 3 people surveyed tasted food to see if it’s off, leaving themselves open to food poisoning, while 4 percent eat it without checking for signs of decay.

It appears that 77 percent are likely to apply the sniff test to check on the status of food a day or two past its expiry date. It is not possible to taste, smell, or see the germs that cause food poisoning. Tasting only a tiny amount can make people very sick.

One in 10 respondents do not check the expiry date and move food from the refridgerator to the freezer up to two days after the use-by date. However, 42 percent do adhere to the manufacturer’s guidance and check the use-by date to determine if an item is still good to eat.

Two-thirds of participants store leftover food to consume at a later stage. Almost three-quarters of people opt for the microwave to reheat their food while 38 percent use the oven and 19 percent re-fry their food. Five percent eat straight from the fridge.

Almost a quarter of people keep ketchup for up to six months, despite Heinz Tomato Ketchup bottles stating it should be refrigerated once opened and eaten within eight weeks. Also, 17 percent admit to keeping mayonnaise for up to half a year even though Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise recommends using the product within three months.

The majority are opting to store mayonnaise and ketchup in the fridge with 63 percent and 40 percent wanting their sauces chilled, respectively but 36 percent store ketchup in the cupboard.

Jonathan Hughes, a microbiologist said: “Ketchup is acidic due to both the tomatoes and the vinegar it contains, which significantly inhibits bacterial growth. Ketchup usually comes with a best-before date of about a year unopened and eight weeks in the fridge once opened. However, it is highly resistant to bacterial growth, lasting up to six months after opening.”

Storage issues
A quarter of those surveyed fight about storage of bread in the house. In second place is leftovers, with 24 percent stating they get upset when they’re not stored correctly and in third is chocolate with 21 percent.

The poll found 39 percent of participants prefer to keep chocolate in the cupboard, whereas 29 percent believe it should be stored in the fridge. However, 4 percent store chocolate in the living room.

A total of 16 percent store potatoes in the refridgertor and 11 percent store their bread in this way.

Hughes said: “Chocolate is best stored in a cool, dry place such as a storage cupboard. When chocolate is removed from the fridge and the condensation created returns to room temperature, it causes a phenomenon called sugar bloom – the white powdery coating on the outer surface of your chocolate.

“Store your bread in a bread bin, as a cool dark place allows for good control of humidity. Bread goes stale quicker in the fridge as it causes the starch molecules in the bread to recrystallize faster than at room temperature.”

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