NEARLY one in three Scots have admitted to eating out-of-date food more often to save money - raising safety fears.

A new study has revealed that a "worrying" 50% are admitting to consuming food past its use-by date.

And 29% of people who were surveyed about their behaviour in the cost of living crisis said that they were eating out-of-date food more often to try and make ends meet.

The study involving a survey of 1000 conducted last month into cost of living crisis behaviour reveals how Scots were taking risks because of financial pressures caused by rising energy bills and soaring mortgage costs.

The analysis has revealed that those most likely to have consumed food past its use-by date include lower socio-economic groups with just over one in three admitting to eating out-of-date products. Some 38% had a heart condition, 36% were from those living in larger households with more than four people and 38% werer people with children at home.

A similar study by the Food Standards Agency, whose remit covers England, Northern Ireland and Wales found that 32% had eaten food pasts its use-by date.

This year a number of UK supermarkets have removed the more lenient best-before labels from many products as part of efforts to reduce waste but the FSA says use-by dates should still be followed.

A best-before date signals when the quality of a product will begin to decline, while a use-by date marks the point after which it could be unsafe to eat.

Jacqui McElhiney, head of science at FSS, commented: “While we were expecting the results of the survey to demonstrate some behaviour changes in relation to how consumers are buying and preparing food, it's concerning that so many people are adopting practices which could put them at increased risk of food poisoning.

The Herald:

“Perishable foods can become unsafe to eat when they are stored past their use by date, especially when they are not kept chilled. Saving energy and avoiding food waste are always priorities, but we must also remember the importance of food safety. There is a range of helpful advice and tips available for consumers on the FSS website.

“This survey has shown us that the cost of living crisis is driving consumer behaviour with the potential to negatively impact public health. As the public sector body for food safety and standards in Scotland, we are here to help protect consumers from food safety risks. While we understand that this is only one part of a much larger scale issue and appreciate the predicament that many consumers face, it makes our own role in helping the people of Scotland to avoid the risk of food poisoning even more important.”

The survey asked people a series of questions linked to behaviours related to food and the cost of living crisis. It was commissioned following the recent FSS consumer tracker survey, which revealed increasing levels of concern about food affordability in Scotland. A total of 70% of those surveyed revealed they were more worried now than in April 2022 about being able to afford food, while 41% were changing cooking behaviours/methods to try and save money.

Around 10% of respondents had changed the temperature of the thermostat in their fridge, with a further 2% turning their fridges off for a period of time to reduce energy bills.

The study is the first in a series of FSS Cost of Living surveys and was completed prior to the energy price cap rise announced on October 1.

The FSS further increases in what it calls "alarming consumer behaviour" as the cost of living crisis deepens.