Freezing of food: Updated guidance

Published: 18 Jul 2016

In a recent poll conducted by the FSA, it is apparent that misconceptions about frozen food are contributing to the seven million tonnes of waste thrown out by UK households every year.

Of the 1,500 people it surveyed, 43% wrongly thought food could only be frozen on the day it was bought, suggesting confusion over food safety. Some 38% incorrectly said food could become unsafe to eat in the freezer.

Guidance published by the agency, which is responsible for food safety and food hygiene across the UK, says food can be safely frozen at any time up to its "use by" date.

Although the taste or texture of the food can deteriorate over time due to ice crystal damage, frozen food will keep indefinitely, it says. Once defrosted, food will spoil in the same way as if it were fresh, it advises.

Guidelines for freezing food items

  • Most types of bacteria survive freezing, but the growth rate will become inactive while frozen due to the low temperature and lack of available water. Frozen food will, therefore, keep indefinitely, although the taste or texture of the food can deteriorate over time due to ice crystal damage.
  • We recommend that in-house frozen portions of food be used within one month to ensure the best quality of product.
  • It is recommended to defrost food slowly and safely, preferably overnight in the refrigerator, to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria growing in the food. Upon defrost a 3 day shelf life should apply.
  • Once defrosted, do not refreeze food items to reduce the likelihood of bacterial growth.

If you require further information regarding safe techniques when freezing food it, please contact us.