20% don't consume food past expiry date
$200 million worth of food thrown away annually, survey finds
For Ms Wu Meihui, expired food need not always have to end up in the trash.
"Why waste good food? As my husband says, these dates are a guideline, something to take note of but not something to be followed religiously," said the teacher in her early 30s.
Sadly, Ms Wu, who cooks daily for her family of five, is an outlier.
A recent survey by appliance maker Electrolux of 1,000 Singapore households found that while 72 per cent understand that food past its indicated date can still be eaten, a staggering $200 million worth of food is thrown away annually.
The survey results were released as part of World Food Day and the third edition of #HappyPlateSG, which aims to curb food waste through education.
Madam Nichol Ng, 39, co-founder of The Food Bank Singapore, which distributes donated food to the needy, said food waste is rising in developed nations globally.
As food is relatively cheap in Singapore, food wasters do not feel the pinch. But mindsets also play a part.
Madam Ng said: "Some things are still edible despite being close to expiring or having just expired, but people throw them away out of fear."
Like the 72 per cent polled, Miss Lee Shu Shien, 24, knows terms such as "Best Before", "Sell By" and "Expires On" do not always indicate when a food product goes bad.
Nutritionist Fiona Chia said that "Best Before" is an estimate of how long a product can maintain its freshness.
"Sell By" refers to how long an item can be put up for sale. "Expires On" indicates a health risk in consuming the product after the date.
But Miss Lee throws away all food past its indicated date. And she is not alone - 20 per cent in the survey said they would never consume anything past its indicated date.
"It is better to be safe than sorry," Miss Lee said.
As a single who cooks for herself, managing food waste is not easy when supermarket portions typically cater to families.
Chef Eric Low, 45, who writes cookbooks and owns Lush Epicurean Culinary Consultancy, said canned goods, dried grains, cereals and sauces are commonly wasted food products.
Many products can have a longer shelf life if stored under favourable conditions.
Madam Ng hopes more people will donate expiring food instead of chucking them.
The Food Bank accepts unopened products up to two weeks before their expiry dates. Donations can be left at Bank Boxes islandwide.
Tips to reduce food waste at home
Chef Eric Low has these tips to curb food waste:
- Food spoils faster when exposed to moisture, oxygen and high temperatures. Most products, for example bottled sauces and dried grains, can be refrigerated for a longer shelf life.
- Storing food in a vacuum or an airtight packaging will limit exposure to oxygen and slow down deterioration.
Cooking expiring food
- Beans can be made into paste and used to make pastries.
- Soft fruits such as bananas can be used in baking or as stuffing. Harder fruits such as apples and pears can be used in compote.
- Vegetables can be pickled, and meatmade into stew or meat sauce and then stored in the freezer.
Visit happyplate.sg for more information.