A survey released on Monday by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has shown that many people have misconceptions about how to safely freeze food – with food being unnecessarily thrown away and contributing to UK's food waste problem.
The FSA is focusing on how to reduce food waste by freezing as part of 2016's Food Safety Week.
According to the survey, a substantial number of people believe myths about freezing food that mean they can end up wasting perfectly good food. A significant 43% of people think that food has to be frozen on the date of purchase when actually food can be frozen right up to the 'use by' date; 38% think it is unsafe to refreeze cooked meat, another misconception; and 36% thought food could become unsafe while in the freezer.
The FSA estimates that 7 million tonnes of food is thrown away in the UK every year; this is thought to cost households on average £470 a year. 54% of people surveyed said they felt guilty about throwing food away but 68% said they had thrown food away in the past month.
Tips for freezing food:
- Food can be frozen any time up to the 'use by' date - some campaigners say it should be thought of as a 'pause button'.
- Once defrosted, food should be eaten within 24 hours; frozen meals can be defrosted in the fridge overnight or safely using a microwave.
- Try to get any air out of bags and use sealed, air-tight containers when freezing.
- Raw food and cooked meals can both be frozen.
- Though food can be stored in the freezer for years, the quality tends to deteriorate after 3 months. It's best to use food within 3-6 months, or you might need to cook it for longer, adding more herbs and spices for flavour.
- Label frozen portions so you can keep track of how long it has stayed in the freezer.
The FSA said the most common reason given was that the food was past its 'use by' date, and that making better use of freezers could help avoid this problem. Director of Policy at the FSA, Steve Wearne, 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."