Scrap food sell-by dates, government urges manufacturers

 

Richard Taylor from Morrisons on what the changes will mean

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Sell-by dates should be removed from food packaging to help cut waste and save shoppers money, ministers say.

The UK throws away about £12bn of edible food each year and critics say confusing packaging is partly to blame.

New government advice says firms should include only use-by or best-before dates and remove sell-by and display-until labels relating to stock control.

The British Retail Consortium said a better approach would be to educate people on what the dates mean.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says five million tonnes of edible food is discarded by UK households annually - the equivalent of £680 for a household with children.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said confusion over food labelling was responsible for an estimated £750m of the £12bn edible-food wastage each year.

'Not relevant'

"We want to end the food labelling confusion and make it clear once and for all when food is good and safe to eat," she said.

She wants confusing stock rotation information - such as sell-by dates - removed from packaging altogether.

Start Quote

We always emphasise that use-by dates are the most important, as these relate to food safety”

End Quote Liz Redmond Food Standards Agency

"There are products that have several dates on them; use by, best before. Sometimes it says 'display until', which is not relevant at all by the time it's sitting in your fridge," Ms Spelman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"So I can understand when people - particularly young people starting out with shopping - look at these dates and say 'I'm not sure about this; better throw it away'."

Compliance with the new guidance is not required by law, although Defra says businesses are legally bound to label food with either a use-by or best-before date.

Its guidance says foods likely to require a use-by date - meaning they could become dangerous to eat - include soft cheese, ready-prepared meals and smoked fish.

Foods likely to require only a best-before date - meaning they may lose quality but are still safe to consume - include biscuits, jams, pickles, crisps and tinned foods.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman: "People are confused about food labelling"

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is backing the new advice.

"We always emphasise that use-by dates are the most important, as these relate to food safety," said its head of hygiene and microbiology, Liz Redmond.

'Wrong approach'

However, food writer Rose Prince told Today she doubted the science employed by manufacturers to set use-by dates and said perishables such as eggs and yoghurt could often last much longer.

The guidance was produced in consultation with food manufacturers, supermarkets, trade associations, consumer groups and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The British Retail Consortium argues the government is tackling the problem of food waste in the wrong way.

Food Director Andrew Opie said a better approach would be to educate consumers so they are clear on the difference between best-before and use-by dates.

"Helping consumers understand that food past its best-before date can still be eaten or cooked could contribute to reducing food waste and saving people money," he said.

"The government should be spreading that message, not focusing on retail practices."

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 496.

    Oh no: not this again!
    It is self-evident that shoppers in this country are so stupid that all perishable products, and everything else for that matter should be immediately removed from supermarket shelves and impounded into safe bunkers where us crazy people won't be able to buy it and throw it away.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 495.

    The times between the packaging of the items and the displayed dates clearly assume the worst reasonable case scenario as to the conditions the items are kept in between leaving the shop and placing them in the proper storage at home.
    Those of us who travel straight home after shopping will experience a greater usable life for the food than those who have a long journey on a warm day.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 494.

    The longer the sell by date the more additive/preservatives it contains.

    Perhaps we should educate people to eat more healthy, fresh food deteriorates the fastest, but it's what people should eat.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 493.

    This is change for the sake of it, we have managed with things the way they are M&S used to sell the date expiring stuff to their staff after the shop shut on the day it had to be sold by, order the right amount and there is no problem.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 492.

    Unfortunately, the old fashioned tests don't always apply anymore

    One of the contributing factors, is that methods of food production that were initially designed for the sole purpose of preserving food are now done just to 'simulate' the taste.

    Also packaging has changed, it might halve the life of the product, but it looks much nicer on the self!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 491.

    surfingkenny - post 488
    You might be too young to remember the 'egg crisis' of the 80s. Edwina Curry got the sack because of it. Poor farming practices and other issues resulted in salmonella poisoning from eggs. Some people died too. Eating runny yolks is not advisable.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 490.

    Does the British Retail Consortium think we're all stupid? Where is the confusion? Someone please tell me. Where is the confusion? I understand the difference between a 'sell by' date and a 'use by' date. I can read for one thing.

    This is similar to the "confusion" over different systems used by manufacturers to display fat and salt content etc. Where is the confusion? Can't people read?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 489.

    All this does leave me wondering just how we managed to stay alive years ago. Far too much importance has been placed on what can only be described as ridiculous labelling on items such as mustard, vinegar and sauces, encouraging the ill-informed to bin food that has nothing wrong with it.

    Mind you, it still won't stop wasteful people shovelling surplus food from their plates into the bin.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 488.

    its been mentioned here about salmonela poisoning, in my 32 years on earth living in 2 continents i have yet to meet anyone who has every had this? nor have i met anyone who hadan arm broken by a swan so please relax, common sense kicks in if you have none then you shouldnt be allowed to shop for food basically ! would you eat a steak thats got maggots on it because the label says so

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 487.

    I always thought use by dates were a challenge, not advive.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 486.

    480.Political Spin
    39 Minutes ago
    463. foxyeric wrote

    When you consider that so many people live on the poverty line perhaps food should be shared to those in need I believe there is an organisation called fareshare that distributes food to the needy where is it?

    --

    Get a grip. There is no poverty in the UK - it was eliminated with the introduction of the welfare state.

    Wrong!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 485.

    my wife does that, throws it out if the packet tells her its only good by a certain date, i take out the bin, wash and put back in fridge, to this day she is none the wiser.
    if its rotten or smells foul then dont eat otherwise its fine in my eyes.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 484.

    433. paul

    Okay.. a cow is slaughtered. ... .. it takes a long time for beef to go off and steak and chips/jacket spuds with lots of butter is the best!

    And lot's of salt too!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 483.

    479. coolblue3000

    But it's still not a good reason for keeping 'sell by' dates.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 482.

    464. Cassandra

    This is repaying a political favour, as many food producers are large contibutors to the tory party. Scrapping controls allows iffy food passed on to buyers.

    ============

    If you believe that then you really must have been eating some very bad food!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 481.

    the fact that peeunit got ill and seems still to be confused about the difference between use by and sell by suggests an education program, however intensive, is just as likely to increase confusion. If we do become less confused, and throw less away, then the supermarket sales will be reduced, a good reason for them to prefer a solution which is ineffective

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 480.

    463. foxyeric wrote

    When you consider that so many people live on the poverty line perhaps food should be shared to those in need I believe there is an organisation called fareshare that distributes food to the needy where is it?

    --

    Get a grip. There is no poverty in the UK - it was eliminated with the introduction of the welfare state.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 479.

    @ The_Migster

    Salami is good for up to 10 years hanging on a wall! This is the whole point of Salami and other cured meats. Yet their use by dates are often weeks or even days.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 478.

    Another aspect of waste is the importation of fruits and vegetables that are obviously still "green" that is, not yet ready or ripen for consumption.
    Everyday I walk around fruiterer's stalls squeezing their peaches, sharon fruits, avocados plums, pears, mangoes etc etc - all these I mention here are often harvested too early and they rot rather than ripen on our stalls. I'd be lucky to get one.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 477.

    Tonnnes of good food are being dumped on daily basis by Supermarkets.

    I often shop later and ask shopworkers what will happen to unsold bread, cookies, cakes, cooked chicken etc. They just look at the ceiling and shrug their shoulders. . .it really is sinful to go on wasting edible food like this.
    Why not lower the price around 4 o'clock, at least they'll guarrantee sale, rather than waste.

 

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