This week on Ocean FM we looked at Best Before and Use By dates and how understanding them better can help us reduce food waste.
Did you know?
- In Ireland we throw away 120 kg of food per household, or 44 kg per person, each year – that’s about half the weight of a full brown bin
- Of all the food waste produced in Ireland, almost one third comes from households
- In 2021, Food Cloud redistributed a total of 3,162 tonnes of food donated by Irish food producers, distributers and retailers, supporting 650 community groups
- The most frequently wasted food items in Ireland are bread, fruit and vegetables
- Limp veggies, or those passed their Best Before Date, are still ok to eat as long as you check for spoilage – there are lots of ways to use them up in soups, stews and sauces
- Best before dates should be used as a guide. They refer to quality- so food may still safe to eat but the flavour, smell or texture might be affected. Bacteria can’t usually grow on these foods, so poisoning is not a concern. Although the quality might be affected food can still be safe to eat after this date as long as it is checked
- The “use by” date is a safety measure and gives a deadline telling us when our food will become unsafe to eat. The kind of foods with a “use by” date are perishable foods usually found in chilled display units, such as cooked meats, dairy products, and prepared salads
Why is this important?
- Food labelling can be confusing and misunderstandings about Best Before dates can lead to edible food being thrown out. 45% of people say that food being past the Best Before date is the main reason for throwing it away
- Food waste produces 10% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions
- A large amount of Ireland’s food waste is disposed of in mixed waste bins and if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide
- When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it
- Food waste costs the average Irish household about €60 per month or €700 per year. That’s an annual national cost of €1.29 billion
- The Irish Government has committed to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030, which is in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals. By the end of this year Ireland will have specific targets for reducing food waste in place and we will all have a role in achieving these
What can I do?
- If you have vegetables that you might not use, try freezing them so that they can be eaten when you need them. If you also get a chance to do a little bit of prep first they are ideal for dinners in a hurry
- If you find that there is a certain kind of vegetable that your are regularly throwing out, consider buying a frozen packet instead. This locks in the nutrition and prevents food waste. You can also use your freezer to batch cook or pop in other prepared food this is at risk of spoiling
- You can freeze grated carrots for up to 1 year – a handy ingredient for cakes or carrot muffins
- Take a bit of time to know the difference between best before and use by dates – the Best Before date you see on food labelling is about quality, not safety. If food looks, smells and tastes alright then it’s good to eat, even if the Best Before date has passed
- Look at options such as soups, smoothies, sauces or baking to use up bits of veg that you think are past their best
For More Information:
For tips on how best to freeze different types of fruit and veg
Food Waste Prevention Tips
Tips for making the most of your food
Food Waste in Ireland