The Cost of Living Crisis is a public health one which will have ongoing implications for Scots. From eating out of date cheaper food to being unable to heat their homes to an adequate temperature, the cost of living in the UK will seriously damage the health and wellbeing of Scots.
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has warned that half of all Scots are eating food which has passed its ‘use-by’ date in order to save money. This is not about reducing food waste. This is the result of people not being able to afford fresh and good food.
The recent survey of Consumers by FSS revealed that people 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.
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.
“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.”
This was the first in a series of FSS Cost of Living surveys and was completed prior to the energy price cap rise on October 1. The next survey is anticipated to show further increases in alarming consumer behaviour as the cost of living crisis deepens.
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Emma Roddick recently brought up the skyrocketing costs of essential items in the Scottish Parliament. She referred to new ONS figures which show the price of budget food in supermarkets has risen by 17%, pointing out that many communities in the Highlands and Islands are already facing higher-than-average costs for basic goods and services.
Emma Roddick said:
“The Tories in London seem to be coming up with ever-more imaginative ways to destroy our economy. They have ensured mortgage rates are at their highest since the financial crash, inflation is out of control, and energy bills have more than doubled – they simply cannot be trusted with running the country.
“The Highlands and Islands are hit hardest by this, as UK policy already punishes us for being far away from London with higher energy costs and less investment than we got as a member of the EU. My constituents need help, and they need it now.
“The Scottish Government acted quickly by uprating the benefits we have control over, and it’s time for the UK Government to do similarly. It is urgent that the upcoming UK fiscal statement fixes at least some of the many recent mistakes the Tories have made, by confirming a rise in social security benefits, ruling out a return to austerity, and providing the Scottish Government with an uplift to the 2022-23 budget to enable Scotland to support people with this Tory-created cost-of-living crisis.”
Increasing numbers of working people are having to go to foodbanks and other charities in order to get by.
93% said their cost of living had increased compared with a year ago, while 80% of adults reported their cost of living had increased over the last month. The main reasons reported were increases in the price of food (92%), gas or electricity bills (78%) and fuel prices (46%).
Over two-thirds (67%) of adults were spending less on non-essentials while 63% were using less energy in their home because of the rising cost of living.ONS UK Economy Latest
Meanwhile as ordinary people and businesses struggle with rising costs and prices, energy companies are raking in huge profits.
You can access the full results of the Food Stand Scotland survey here. You can also find useful safety advice and tips for more sustainable ways of eating on the website and on social – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Time to turn it around! Instead of being ripped off we should perhaps start and refuse to consume energy where we can do so safely to ‘dent’ the energy companies’ sometimes obscene profits? Should our motivation just be driven by the squeezes imposed upon us or should it be some form of active resistance?
Our ancestors, as well as the ancestors of many populations all over the world in hot and in cold countries, were using ingenious ideas to cook, cool and heat.
Clay pots were (and still are) used in many regions. For cooking, storage and cooling, the latter by exploiting the simple physics of the cooling effects of evaporating water. In India you can buy fridges which work by these principles.
Instead of resorting to unsafe methods which can compromise our health, why not re-discover traditional means and employ them (safely!)?
The “savings” made by changing the thermostat of a modern fridge or by switching it off temporarily, may not only result in a health hazard but could be marginal or even counterproductive, especially if the fridge is not full. Tampering with a freezer’s thermostat could even be worse.
Many things can be better and safer (think about longer lasting blackouts!) stored when dried. A freezer is energy intensive, all the time. A food dehydrator uses energy just once, during the drying process. Storage of the dried food (in glass jars) does not require any energy at all. Try to get one with a low wattage but a temperature range from 30 up to 90 degrees, they are most effective and are suited to dry meat/fish (high temperature) as well as fruit and veg (lower temperatures). DIY experts may even able to build such a device which uses the sun’s energy.
There is also the issue of cooking which is energy intensive. Should we be deprived of proper meals? This is probably not a sensible choice. There are several things we can do. Firstly, get a few more oven racks/shelves, so you can cook or roast several meals at the same time, ideally including some meals which can be eaten cold as well. For example Quiche Lorraine, pork roast, roast beef, bread, cookies and so forth. Done wisely, you may only need your oven once in a week and still have lovely meals all through the week.
Many of us will use our open fires more this winter. Any of granny’s old and heavy cast iron pots still in the house? If your fire is not too hot (be cautious because you do not want to destroy the pot), these pots can be used directly on the fire to reheat meals, if needed.
Also, let us re-discover the past. An example of traditional cooking from Italy which is now being used to reduce energy usage: https://goodwordnews.com/italians-use-old-kitchen-appliances-to-cope-with-rising-gas-prices/
There should be enough wool in Orkney to try this!
We do not have to re-invent the wheel. We can learn lessons from all over the world where people have to be creative and innovative to get by even if there is limited or no electricity. And we can look back how our ancestors coped.
Our advantage is that we can inform ourselves online about associated risks and avoid them.
There is no reason why we should dwell without any comfort in these times!
Practical action are very good about promoting better ways to cook and conserve food…..
It’s also possible to give ‘practical presents’ to people you know, which help individuals and communities who have les than they do.
I found an unopened tub of Philadelphia soft cheese in my fridge dated April 2022 – I know, I know – I’m a bad housewife. I opened it, sniffed and it seemed perfectly fine to me despite being 6 months out of date. Needless to say I didn’t put it to the ultimate test.