Cash-strapped consumers are turning to a rather dangerous way to stretch their food dollars — they’re ignoring expiration dates and keeping leftovers in the fridge for longer periods of time.

In a recent survey, the Food Standards Agency in the UK found that one-third of respondents said that rather than throwing something out once it’s expired, they rely on the look and smell of the food to gauge how safe it is to eat. And that can be risky.

“With most of us seeing our weekly shopping bills increase over the last few years, we are all looking for ways to get the most out of our shopping budget,” said Bob Martin, a food safety expert with the FSA, but he warns, “Bugs like E.coli and Salmonella don’t cause food to smell off, even when they may have grown to dangerous levels. So food could look and smell fine but still be harmful.”

Andrew Wilson of the British Dietetic Association concurred and added, “A bout of food poisoning is not only unpleasant but could be potentially life threatening. There’s no point in taking risks with food safety.”

[BBC]