Locked down householders waste less, buy fewer takeaways and ignore ‘use by’ dates

People are throwing away less food, buying fewer takeaways and taking risks with “use by” dates, according to the Food Standards Agency’s first Covid-19 consumer tracker reports.

The surveys, involving more than 2,000 adults and run by Ipsos Mori, are designed to help the Agency understand everything from food insecurity and changing consumption patterns to new food safety risks.

For example, 35% are eating cooked meats past their “use by” dates. People are also consuming soft cheeses (21%), pasteurised milk (28%) and smoked fish (17%) past these dates, as well as bagged salad (36%). All these foods potentially pose a risk to food safety when eaten past their use by dates according to FSA microbiologists. “Worries about affordability appear to influence this,” the tracker report noted.

The first two waves, conducted in April and May, showed that people bought fewer takeaways than they usually did before lockdown. Finding an open outlet was one of the reasons (29% cited this), but there were also concerns around food safety and hygiene (15%). One in five said they had less money to spend.

The FSA also found that a quarter of respondents never purchase food from a takeaway (25%) and just under half (49%) have never received a food delivery from an online food ordering company such as Deliveroo or JustEat.

More people are also cooking from scratch and wasting less food. Some 39% are making their own meals more often, whilst 35% are throwing less food away. Almost one in four (24%) are freezing leftovers.

There has also been a shift to more local sourcing – 35% said they had bought more from local shops.

Encouragingly, 26% said they are eating more healthy meals than they did before lockdown. However, 42% are eating more unhealthy snacks, compared to 14% who said they are consuming fewer biscuits, cakes, confectionery and savoury snacks.

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