To mark National Stop Food Waste Day on 1 March, the EPA is calling on the people of Galway to make use-by dates work for them and help prevent food waste.
Findings from a new EPA survey on food waste show that the main reason people throw away food in their household is because it has passed its use-by date.
And, while 76 per cent of people say they ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ check dates on food labels while shopping, few rate themselves highly at keeping track of food in the fridge to know what food there is to use and by when.
Warren Phelan, Programme Manager in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability said: “We are calling on everyone take a few simple steps to make the most of the food they buy.
“Irish households produce over 250,000 tonnes of food waste per year, at a cost of €700 per household. It takes a lot of resources to put food on our tables.”
He said that growing, processing and transporting food all use huge amounts of materials and energy.
“And when food is wasted, these resources are wasted too. Reducing food waste reduces our greenhouse gas emissions and also reduces bills for householders and businesses.”
With this in mind, the EPA has five tips for working with use-by dates to avoid wasting food:
- Check use-by dates on food labels when shopping: When buying food, check the use-by date to make sure it will last until you plan to use it.
- Store perishable food properly: Make sure that the food is stored properly, e.g. cooked meats should be stored in a fridge at 5° Celsius or less.
- Keep track of use-by dates in your fridge: After shopping, place food with longer use-by dates behind ‘older’ ones to wait their turn to be eaten.
- Eat food before the use-by deadline is up: You can eat food right up to the end of its use-by date but not after. So when the countdown is on, take action:-
- eat it;
- share it with your family or friends;
- try an ‘Eat Me’ share-shelf in your fridge.
- Freeze food right up to its use-by date: If you don’t think you’ll be able to use food within the use-by time – you can freeze it right up to the use-by date. Just remember that when food is frozen on its use-by date it should be defrosted in the fridge and consumed within 24 hours.
Environmental scientist with the EPA, Odile Le Bolloch added: “We can make every day Stop Food Waste Day by taking some simple actions to make use-by dates work for us.
“Our survey shows that people understand that use-by dates are a food safety deadline. But the survey also shows that people don’t keep track of these dates on food in their fridge so they end up wasting it.”