Insights into people’s food safety approach when in the home, eating out, and ordering online have been provided by a survey.

Food and You 2 is a survey commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It measures consumers’ self-reported knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to food safety and other issues in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. A total of 6,770 adults from 4,727 households took part between April and July 2022.

“Food and You 2 provides FSA and the rest of the Government with robust data on what people think and do when it comes to food. We are seeing high levels of concern about food prices, as well as people making changes to their eating habits for financial reasons,” said Emily Miles, FSA chief executive.

More than 90 percent of respondents were confident that the food they buy is safe to eat.

Eighty percent were confident that FSA, or the government agency responsible for food safety, can be relied upon to protect the public from risks such as food poisoning or allergic reactions.

The same amount had no concerns about the food they eat. The main worries related to food production methods and food safety and hygiene while 11 percent mentioned food contamination.

From a list, the top concern was food prices, with food hygiene when ordering takeaways and when eating out, and food poisoning also in the Top 10. About a third were concerned about food from outside the UK is safe and hygienic.

Domestic food safety
Two-thirds of respondents identified the use-by date as the information which shows that food is no longer safe to eat and almost the same amount said they always check this date before they cook or prepare food.

Most respondents would not eat shellfish or other fish past the use-by date. This was about half for raw meat and smoked fish. When foods are eaten past the use-by date, this is typically one to two days after. Of specified foods, people would be most likely to eat bagged salad and cheese after the use-by date.

Most respondents do not always follow on-pack instructions about food being eaten within a few days of opening. The majority said they never consume raw oysters or raw milk.

People were more likely to say that they, at least occasionally before cooking, washed fish or seafood and raw chicken compared to lamb, beef, or pork and raw duck, goose, or turkey. The FSA tells people not to wash raw meat as it can spread bacteria.

Half of those surveyed reported always washing their hands before eating and three-quarters said they always wash their hands before preparing or cooking food.

Six in 10 knew fridge temperature should be between 0 to 5 degrees C (32 to 41 degrees F). A fifth said it should be above 5 degrees C, and 18 percent didn’t know.

Less than half of respondents leave meat or fish to defrost at room temperature, a practice that is not advised.

The main method to check food was ready when reheated was to see if the middle is hot, and the least common was to use a thermometer or probe.

Online food ordering
Eating habits in the past 12 months had changed for most respondents, mainly because of finances but a few cited food safety reasons and to avoid food poisoning.

Over half of the respondents had ordered food or drink from the websites of a restaurant, takeaway, or café or from an online ordering and delivery company such as Just Eat, Deliveroo, or Uber Eats.

About a quarter had ordered via an online marketplace like Amazon, Gumtree, or Etsy and around 1 in 10 had used a food-sharing app, for example, Olio or Too Good to Go, or social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or Nextdoor. Most people ordered food from each type of platform two to three times a month or less.

Prepared cooked meals or snacks and baked goods and desserts were the products most commonly bought through online ordering and delivery companies; restaurants, takeaway or café sites, food-sharing apps, and social media. However, sweets and chocolates, and packaged goods were top of the list on online marketplaces.

Of those that had heard of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS), almost half always or most of the time checked the scores when ordering. Most people said ratings were either often or about half of the time easy to find online.

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