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Is this still OK to eat?

Do you sometimes take a risk with "out of date" food, confused by the labelling?

Boston Borough Council's environmental health department has come to the rescue during National Food Safety Week with a no-nonsense guide.

Use by - this is about food safety. The food can be eaten or frozen up until its use by date, but shouldn't be consumed, unless frozen, after then.

Best before - this is an indication of quality. The food will still be safe to eat after this date, but it may not be at its best.

It is illegal for shops to sell food that is past its use by date, but they are allowed to sell food that is close to, or beyond, its best before date.

If you find out-of-date food with a use by date in your fridge, throw it away. The out-of-date carrots, biscuits or tea bags can still be safely consumed.

If you need any advice on food safety matters, contact the Council's Environmental Health team on 01205 314248, or email

Eating out, ordering food in? Find out what food hygiene rating food establishments have gained

Put it in the freezer and not in the bin

There is another good reason for understanding the labelling on food - it could save you money. Does an extra £500 in your pocket sound tempting?

According to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, that's the amount you could save every year - just by making better use of your freezer.

The council has joined forces with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Love Food Hate Waste Campaign by urging residents to waste less and save cash, by freezing food close to its use-by date.

The FSA says two-thirds of UK adults admit binning food during the last month. Most said they had thrown away food past its use-by date, bought too much and not eaten it or not had the chance to eat it before it went off.

And Love Food Hate Waste says seven million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK each year, costing households around £470 annually.

Kevin Hargin, head of Foodborne Disease Control at the FSA, said: "Every year, we throw away seven million tonnes of food and drink from our homes. Much of this waste is unnecessary, and a better understanding of how to freeze food safely could go a significant way towards tackling the problem.

"Our research shows that many of the fears the public have about freezing food are unfounded - 31 per cent of the people we spoke to said that more information about how to safely freeze food would help them to reduce their food waste.".

Ann Alexander, Boston Borough Council food safety officer, said: "Lots of people believe food can only be frozen on the day of purchase, but the freezer is like a pause button and you can safely freeze most foods right up to the use-by date. You can even cook defrosted meat into a new meal and freeze it to eat on another day.

"With so much food being thrown away in the UK each year, we want Boston residents to think about how they can use their freezers to their full potential, rather than putting food in the bin.

"While food is kept safe in the freezer, it's the quality that deteriorates over time. Make sure, if you are home freezing, that you put a date on the container. The FSA recommends eating it within three to six months and checking for any freezing instructions on the packaging.

"Once defrosted, the pause button is off, so defrost food as and when you need it and eat it within 24 hours of it being fully defrosted."