Food Waste in The UK: Common Beliefs and Misconceptions

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Last November I shared with you my review of the Foodsaver Fresh, a compact vacuum packing machine which helps food to last up to 2x longer. I was particularly impressed with the results I got from using their reusable vacuum bags, where I found my food stayed fresh for much longer than using a regular zip-sealed bags.

Foodsaver Fresh want to help all of us to reduce our food waste and they’ve recently conducted some research into people’s common food misconceptions and beliefs with some surprising results.

According to the Foodsaver research Brits throw away a total of 2½ billion food items each year. This means that an average British adult throws away 4 items of food each month because it has gone out of date. Whilst this doesn’t sound like a huge number, it equates to almost 3000 food items wasted per person over the average adult lifetime. When you think of it like that, it’s an awful lot of waste, not just of food, but also of money.

That said 64% of people revealed that they have eaten food past its use by date and 87% of people ignore best before dates. If this wasn’t the case then the food waste problem would be even bigger. Personally I’ll take a judgement on best before dates (especially for products when they’re really long – what’s a few extra days?), but I always stick to use by dates as to me it’s not worth the risk.

The research showed that 49% of people would like to reduce their food waste and the Foodsaver Fresh is a great way of doing that as it helps eek out a product’s shelf life for as long as possible, giving you all more time to use it up.

Which foods are we throwing away the most?

Apparently one of the most wasted items is lettuce, which is also one of the most expensive foods to produce compared to its nutritional value. More than a third of the nation (35%) admit to throwing away leaves on a regular basis.

Other foods that are commonly thrown away are bread (24%) and cucumbers (22%).

Why are we wasting so much food?

According to the Foodsaver research one of the main reasons we’re wasting so much food is because of confusion around how to store different food correctly. The research showed that eggs are the most confusing with 31% of people admitting that they don’t know the best method to keep them fresh.

Over half of Brits (55%) store eggs in the fridge, whereas the other 45% prefer to store their eggs at an ambient temperature. I’m a fridge storer, but my fridge isn’t huge so if I’m short of space I’ll move them out onto the worktop.

Personally I rarely waste eggs, mainly because I do a fair bit of baking (you may have noticed all the cakes on here) so they tend to get used up. However, I also find that they usually last longer than their best before date which helps to avoid waste. A great trick for checking if an egg is still OK to eat is to put it into a glass of water. If it sinks to the bottom it’s still OK, if it floats then chuck it into the food waste bin.

One result from the survey I found surprising is that almost a quarter (24%) admitted to arguing with loved ones about the best way to store their favourite food item. I’m definitely in the other three-quarters as I don’t remember ever having that argument. Have you?

Other common food misconceptions

73% of Brits believe that food should be allowed to cool completely before refrigerating – I’m in that 73%, I’m sure that’s what I’d always been told. I’ll be popping it in warm in future.

64% believe that eating foods high in Vitamin C can keep you from catching a cold – Another one I thought was true. Apparently Vitamin C does have an impact on whether you’re likely to catch a cold but it’s negligible in the amounts we consume. However, Vitamin C is great for lots of other things like immune function, bone structure, iron absorption, and healthy skin so it’s important to get your recommended daily amount.

35% believe that if food smells OK then it’s OK to eat – Apparently the bacteria that cause food poisoning have no aroma so you won’t always be able to smell if food is safe to eat.

25% of Brits apply the “5 second rule” – If you drop food onto an unclean surface then regardless of how long it’s left there it can still pick up harmful bacteria. It’s best to follow the rule that if you drop it on the floor, drop it in the (food waste) bin.

What is the FoodSaver Fresh?

The FoodSaver Fresh is a vacuum sealing solution, helping to make short-term food storage easier and more convenient than ever. The system keeps food fresh for two times longer than conventional fridge methods like zip seal bags, foil, cling film and unbranded store packaging – reducing time spent preparing weekly meals and vastly cutting down household expenditure.

By removing air from specifically-designed vacuum zipper bags and containers, the FoodSaver Fresh forms a powerful airtight seal. Through this innovative functionality, the system not only enables households to reduce waste but also helps to keep food costs down.

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