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Half of us at risk by ignoring 'use-by' food dates

NEARLY half of consumers ignore use-by dates on food with experts warning they are putting their health at risk, a report has revealed.

A survey conducted by the Food Safety Authority Ireland (FSAI) found that 46pc of people had no problem eating food past the use-by or best-before date.

One in three people also claimed they would eat food past expiry if it looked and smelled edible.

But FSAI experts warned of the dangers and urged food companies to ensure the shelf life of their products was clearly and accurately marked.

Dr Wayne Anderson, food science and standards director, said food may be badly contaminated even if it appeared good enough to eat.

"We would caution people to be careful in this regard as food products contaminated with harmful bacteria may look okay and taste and smell no different when they have gone beyond their use-by date," he said.

Use-by and best-before dates on food packaging differ.

Best-before refers to the date until which the food retains its specific properties.

The health benefits of vegetables, for example, are greater prior to the best-before date but they may still be okay to eat for a period afterwards.

Use-by, however, refers to perishable foods which, after their expiry, can be dangerous from a microbiological point of view.