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Freezing food can lead to a less wasteful Christmas

BEST PRACTICE: Festive food is often cooked in large quantities, making storage methods even more important over Christmas

CHRISTMAS IS often a busy and stressful time. While 43% of people feel that buying presents is the main worry, cooking Christmas dinner comes second, along with family arguments!

Cooking for more people than normal can mean having to handle different defrosting and cooking times for food, making sure that large amounts of food are stored safely, and ensuring that any leftovers don't go to waste.

In the UK we throw away seven million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, most of which could have been eaten. Wasting food costs the average household £470 a year. With nearly a third (29%) of people preparing Christmas dinner for more than seven guests, households are particularly wasteful over the festive season.

In research conducted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), over two thirds (68%) of people surveyed admitted to having thrown food away in the past month; the most common reason given is that it is past its ‘use by’ date, 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.

The study also identified a number of freezing ‘myths’ that are preventing people from using their freezers to make food go further. 43% of those interviewed thought 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 believed that food can become unsafe to eat while in the freezer.

To tackle these freezer misconceptions and reduce food waste over the festive period, the ‘FSA Freezer Fairy’ is providing advice and tips on freezing foods. These will help people plan meals and work out what and when to cook, freeze and defrost, in order to have a less stressful and wasteful Christmas.

Dr Kevin Hargin at the FSA, comments:

“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.

'That's why we are making freezing the focus this Christmas and demonstrating, with the help of our festive FSA Freezer Fairy, that proper use of the freezer can help take some stress out of Christmas cooking and reduce food waste.

'By planning ahead you could get the bulk of your Christmas cooking done weeks in advance and store the food in the freezer.

'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.

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