Children in England are suffering food poisoning because domestic refrigerators are being turned off to save money, according to multiple reports.

Truro Food Bank told the BBC it has had reports of children having upset stomachs, or food poisoning, because some parents are turning their fridges and freezers off overnight to save electricity as rising bills are putting extra pressure on families. Young children are especially vulnerable to small amounts of bacteria that cause food poisoning. Turning these appliances off means food spoils quicker.

Chilling food properly helps stop harmful bacteria from growing. Some items need to be chilled for safety reasons, such as raw, ready-to-eat and cooked food. The fridge should be 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) or below. Food in a freezer won’t deteriorate and most bacteria cannot grow in it but it needs to be defrosted safely, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Recent figures from the Trussell Trust showed food banks in the charity’s network provided more than 2.1 million parcels to people across the country from April 2021 to March 2022.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “People are telling us they’re skipping meals so they can feed their children. That they are turning off essential appliances so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework.

“And yet food banks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship. No-one’s income should fall so dangerously low that they cannot afford to stay fed, warm and dry.”

A previous FSA survey found the proportion of people who reported food insecurity, through cutting the size or skipping meals for financial reasons, use of food banks or local authority support, had increased from April 2020 to October 2021.

Those who said they cut or skipped meals because of money issues were significantly more likely to eat food such as cheese, smoked fish, cooked meat, bagged salad and milk past the use-by date.

Other research looking at changes in eating habits in the past 12 months found some people had bought food close to its use-by date more, had eaten food past this date more and kept leftovers for longer before eating.

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