Images of lovely colourful food

Mouldy food: Why?

No food lasts forever in perfect condition, however well it is stored. Bacteria  and yeast moulds within the food start to multiply and digest the food. This is the first stage of decomposition. All our food storage methods (whether its kept in the fridge, freezer, or canned, pickled or bottled) aim to stop this process happening, but none are completely perfect at stopping decomposition forever.

What do food labels mean?

Most foods carry either a “use by” or a “best before” date, or both. 34% of people admit to throwing away food because it had gone past its “use by” or “best before” date.

  • Best before date: refers to the quality of food, and are often present on foods with a longer life. They show how long it is predicted the food will be at its best. You can eat food that is past its best before date as it isn’t dangerous, but it may have lost some flavour or not be the right texture.
  • Use by: this date refers to food safety, so food and drink should not be consumed after this date. The food might look or smell OK but it might not be safe to eat.
  • If it feels, looks and smells OK …then it probably is. Our noses are really clever at telling when food has gone off!

Mouldy food: How much is there?

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates almost half (41%) of the 6.6 million tonnes of good food thrown away in our homes every year could be avoided if we used it up in time.

What can be done?

Learn how to reduce food waste at home with five simple tips:

  • Plan meals – meal planning really helps as you don’t buy food that doesn’t get used.
  • Shop with a list – keep a note through the week of things that run out. There are plenty of apps available to help with this too.
  • Know your dates – make a note of the use by dates on the food you buy. Make sure you use food up before that date, by planning around these dates.
  • Freeze things – the freezer is your friend! You can freeze many things – meat and fish, milk, yogurt, some fruits and vegetables. This is especially useful if things are getting nearer their use by date. “Customers should freeze products right up to their use-by date instead of throwing them out,” says Susi Richards, head of product development at Sainsbury’s. (Quote from The Guardian – 4th March 2015)
  • Think about portion size – one of the main reasons food is wasted is by cooking too much and then throwing it away. Learn what a normal portion looks like when it is uncooked and only cook what you need.

Recycle Devon have written a handy book to help you reduce food waste packed full of these tips and loads of recipes to use up leftovers.