SUPERMARKET sausages, mince and bacon “could be safe to eat” weeks after use-by dates expire, suggests new research.
Tests on red meat found that it takes up to 50 days for the deadly c.botulinum bacteria to become toxic in beef, 35 days for lamb and 25 days for pork.
A scientific experiment found that use-by dates on red meat could be extended
Current Food Standards Agency (FSA) rules state that all vacuum packed meat has a shelf life of 10 days when it’s chilled at more than three degrees Celsius.
This is because as meat gets older it develops harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning – it will have more serious effects the longer the germs have to manifest.
But the British Meat Processing Association, the organisation behind the research, argue its findings show that use-by dates can safely be extended by a few days.
It means that supermarkets could be throwing a way meat that is still safe to eat so an extension would “dramatically reduce” food waste.
When is meat not safe to eat?EATING gone off meat can make you seriously ill so you must not ignore the warning signs.
If meat has passed it’s use by date then don’t eat it.
You also shouldn’t consume meat that got a grey or geen tinge to it, or a bad smell – that’s a sign that it’s likely to have gone off.
According to NHS guidelines, you can make your meat last longer by freezing it before the use by date but you must make sure that you defrost it thoroughly when you do come to cook it.
Defrosted meat should be eaten within two days.
When storing raw meat in the fridge, make sure that it doesn’t drip onto other food.
The 10-day rule applies from the moment you package fresh meat to turn it into food like sausages and ham.
The UK is the only EU country to adhere to the strict rules, while other European manufacturers are allowed to set their own use-by dates as long as they can prove that the meat won’t go off before then.
The firms maybe able to prove that the product can last up to 50 days before going off but it can’t guarantee that shoppers will keep it in the same controlled conditions when they take it home, meaning it won’t last as long.
“It’s called “food abuse”,” explains BMPA spokesperson David Lindars, “because consumers treat it differently once they’ve left the supermarket, like leaving it on the side before putting it in the fridge.
“It’s been proven that the bacteria doesn’t grow when the meat is chilled at three degrees Celsius but domestic fridges normally operate at around four to five degrees.
How to reduce food wasteYOU can save money by being prepared and looking ahead at the dates on your food. Here’s what you can do to reduce food waste according to the Food Standards Agency:
Plan your meals – By looking ahead you can prepare meals with food that are approaching their use by dates other fresh foods like fruit and vegetables that can go off over time.
Batch cook – By making meals in batches you can use up food approaching its use by dates in bulk. You can then freeze the leftovers to be eaten aother day.
Freeze food – Many people believe food can only be frozen on the day of purchase but you can actually safely freeze most foods right up to the use by date. You should eat it within three to six months of freezing it.
Freeze raw and cooked meats – You can safely freeze raw and cooked meats and even cook defrosted meat into a new meal and freeze for use on another day. Once defrostes, use within 24 hours and cook till steaming hot.
For more information, visit the Food Standards Agency website.
“That will make the meat’s shelf life shorter, which the manufacturer will take into account when setting the use-by date.
“We’re saying that it’s not reasonable to expect manufacturers to extend the shelf life for 50 days because we can’t guarantee that shoppers will store it in exactly the same conditions as manufacturers.
“But an extension of even a few days while the meat it is in controlled conditions at the manufacturers will greatly reduce food waste without being harmful.”
While it’s not illegal to sell meat beyond this date, firms will be breaking health and safety rules.
Calls to extend the 10-day rule first came to light after Wetherspoons steak supplier Russel Hume was forced to recall meat supplied to hundreds of high street chains following a food hygiene investigation.
The firm went bust following the scandal, but further FSA investigations into other meat suppliers found that labelling compliance among a number of manufacturers was a “systematic problem”.
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Poultry and fresh meat which isn’t packaged in this way have a different set of rules for freshness.
The FSA told The Sun it will consider the results of the research, which was backed by supermarkets including Aldi, Asda, Tesco and Morrisons.
It said that its guidelines were based on “robust scientific evidence” but that manufacturers already have the ability to extend the shelf-life by demonstrating that the firm can guarantee consumer safety.
He added: “When relevant new science is generated it is standard practice to revisit the evidence base and we will now consider the findings of this report.”
Not sure what the difference is between a use-by date and the best before date? Read our guide to getting them right because it could actually save you cash in the long run.
Mobile phone footage shows dirty conditions inside a Russell Hume factory as meat scandal continues
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