People’s dangerous food safety behaviors related to reducing energy bills and saving money have stayed largely the same as the previous month, according to a survey.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) Consumer Insights Tracker found 15 percent of participants turned off a fridge and/or freezer containing food in December compared to 13 percent in November.

People were asked about steps they had taken at least once in the past month to reduce energy bills and save money.

Overall, 23 percent of participants changed settings on their fridge or freezer so that food was kept at a warmer temperature. This was 21 percent in November.

Around a quarter lowered cooking temperatures and reduced the length of time food was cooked for, which was similar to the month before.

Also, 61 percent of respondents used cheaper cooking methods such as a microwave, air fryer or slow cooker instead of an oven to heat or cook food. Up slightly from 58 percent in November.

Changing habits
The latest monthly survey was done online from Dec. 16 to 19, 2022, with 2,000 adults in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

More than 1 in 5 reported that they had eaten cold food as they could not afford to cook hot food, which is up from 18 percent in November 2022.

A total of 29 percent of participants said they had eaten food past its use-by date because they couldn’t afford to buy more. This is up from 26 percent in November.

In December 2022, people were asked about their level of concern when doing food shopping. Half felt concerned about the quality of food, which is significantly higher than 35 percent in December 2021 and 43 percent were worried about the safety of food, which is up from 32 percent in December 2021.

Other behaviors included buying reduced food items that are close to their use-by date and purchasing more long-life and fewer fresh items.

In the latest survey, 38 percent of participants felt concerned about the safety of food produced in the UK, compared to 52 percent concerned about the safety of imported food. Also, 42 percent felt concerned about the quality of food produced in the UK, compared to 52 percent worried about the quality of food from outside the UK.

Larger ONS analysis
Separate data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows about one in five adults reported eating smaller portions and food past its use by date in winter 2022.

Adults more likely to report both of these included those experiencing moderate-to-severe depressive symptoms; renting; with diabetes; with a health condition and with one or more dependent children.

About half of the adults said they spent less on food and essentials because of the cost of living, in the survey period of late November to December.

To reduce gas and electricity use at home, some people were cooking less, not heating or re-heating food to safe temperatures and unplugging the fridge or freezer.

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