The Food Safety Information Council (FSIC) has urged consumers not to take food safety shortcuts during the cost of living crisis.

Australian Food Safety Week, from Nov. 11 to 18, 2023, encourages people to stay safe while eating on a budget. 

Cathy Moir, FSIC chair, said that according to the charity Foodbank, 3.7 million Australian households had experienced food insecurity during the past 12 months, a jump of almost 350,000 on the previous year.

“This year’s Australian Food Safety Week theme is ‘Food safety – dollars and sense’ and warns about managing the increased cost of living without compromising food safety,” she said.

“There are an estimated 4.67 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year that result in 47,900 hospitalizations, 38 deaths, and costs to the economy of AUD 2.1 billion (U.S. $1.3 billion). Foodborne disease isn’t a minor illness and can leave you with long-term health effects such as reactive arthritis.”

Moir advised people who needed help to contact a food charity.

“Never dumpster dive for discarded food which is likely to be contaminated by other rubbish, be past its use by date, would not be kept at a safe temperature, or may have been discarded due to a food recall,” she said.

FSIC advice includes buying seasonal fruit and vegetables, using the freezer to avoid food waste, checking product dates, and a reminder that foods with a best before can still be eaten safely after that date.

The charity warned against foraging wild food such as mushrooms and purchasing items from unknown sources such as social media.

FSA survey findings
Similar concerns are reflected elsewhere, based on data from an online monthly survey commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It found that 41 percent of respondents bought reduced or discounted food close to its use-by-date to save money in September 2023.

The Consumer Insights Tracker covers England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and surveyed more than 2,050 adults in September.

One in four are worried about their household being unable to afford food in the next month. A total of 11 percent said they had eaten food past its use-by date as they couldn’t afford to buy other items. The same amount had cut the size of dishes or skipped meals because there wasn’t enough money for food.

The poll found that 14 percent had reduced the time food was cooked, 13 percent had lowered the cooking temperature, 10 percent had eaten food cold as they couldn’t afford to cook it, and 5 percent had turned off a fridge or freezer containing food.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)