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
    -1

    Comment number 516.

    This I'm afraid to say is probably another smokescreen, we must now accept here that we must consume faulty goods because we have relinquished our place in the world at the command of tired men.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 515.

    @506.RTFishall "Because its an English website and we speak English!"

    Not it's not, it's a British website. Typical.

    @512.this_comment_was_banned.

    The BBC website doesn't check spelling, it's your browser's settings.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 514.

    This is a very dull topic....and that's a very dull comment.
    Then so are all the others.
    Goodnight.
    xx

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 513.

    @512. this_comment_was_banned


    er, it's your browser set to US dictionary, Mine is set to UK don't blame the Beeb for your incompetence.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 512.

    506.
    RTFishall

    Because its an English website and we speak English!
    Hu !
    p.s Why does the BBC have a American online spell checker ?

    PLEASE NOTE its a None UK English spell checker .
    UK citizens aren't American, and don't speak or write AMERICAN English
    So I say again ....
    p.s Why does the BBC have a American online spell checker ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 511.

    Considering most food in shops has a "shelf life" of only a couple of days, I would say these dates are pretty meaningless. I often eat food several days past it's SB date no problem. It's the food standards agency to blame I suspect. The usual over-cautious approach to public health. By all means use a "use by" date, but make it realistic.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 510.

    I totally ignore this information anyway and go with my instincts. If it looks, smells and/or feels like its off then its off otherwise its good to eat and I'm still alive after 3 decades and never had food poisoning. Also in the picture the fridge is overstocked and the foods are badly positioned. All Meat should be at the bottom and not share a shelf with vegtables

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 509.

    RATED
    -2
    Comment number 464. Cassandra
    4 HOURS AGO
    After the USA did it a few years back, food poisonings rose 10 fold, the effect on employers with worker absenteeism saw controls back - albeit in a different form - lo and behold poisonings fell...
    --------
    Utter rubbish, show us some proof that food borne illness in the US Rose by 10% within the last few years

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 508.

    wonder how many millions they wasted on this research get a grip and stop wasting our money on stupid things which wont make any difference sell by dates are a good thing as if you go to the shop at the right time you can save a fortune on things that still have a few days use by date on them

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 507.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 506.

    502.
    this_comment_was_banned
    11 Minutes ago

    Also tinned veg and fruit CAN deteriorate over time, the sell by date is much longer that's all.
    All about shareholders & maximising profits !
    p.s Why does the BBC have a American online spell checker ?

    ////////////////////////

    Because its an English website and we speak English!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 505.

    Go to a butcher, veg shop or better farm, then a baker or better still bake your own, I do, 10mins work max in a breadmaker at 35p per loaf. Grow as much as you can yourself, it can be done even in a flat with balcony, and the taste is far better.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 504.

    Am I the only person who completely does not see the issue here? The only people who should be having any problems are those that do not speak english or are currently learning english but have not yet learned the meanings of the words in the phrases 'display/sell by', 'use by' and 'best before'.

    There may be a number of issues with how food is wasted but this really should NOT be one of them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 503.

    Tonnnes of good food are being dumped on daily basis by Supermarkets.
    And ? !!! ???
    Surly that's an inefficiency @ a supermarket level ?
    The government want us slimmer ( or so they say ) so we can't eat more !
    Over production MUST be the cause.
    The HUGE supermarkets work on an `economies of scale basis' to maximize profits, and when they over produce they want us to eat stale food !!!! No WAY !!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 502.

    Also tinned veg and fruit CAN deteriorate over time, the sell by date is much longer that's all.
    All about shareholders & maximising profits !
    p.s Why does the BBC have a American online spell checker ?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 501.

    Yes scrap the "sell by dates" on food and introduce them for politicians.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 500.

    WiseOldBob - post 496
    You are funny if nothing else. I remember my nanan putting the milk bottle into a bucket of water, during the summer (1960s), before she could afford a fridge. Pantries had a solid concrete slab to keep food cold. Times have changed, but as I said in an earlier post, there are some people who do have genuine difficulties, so don't insult everyone.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 499.

    The dates are important and give the consumer a means of knowing how safe food really is. However... a radical rethink of food supply in this country is required.

    All theses empty shops should be made rate free when opening as a fruit and veg shop. Not a fancy deli but an old fashioned shop that sells fresh produce. Likewise the same for butchers and fishmongers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 498.

    Best Before dates on tinned/canned food must also be removed. Such food does NOT deteriorate if the can is undamaged. Best Before dates are also set very, very conservatively and most food that has been stored properly lasts far longer than the so-called best before dates. Most manufacturers/processors set dates far too short to avoid being sued.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 497.

    I now know why Neanderthal man became extinct: couldn't understand the labelling on the woolly mammoths and shellfish that made up their diet. Threw it all away and starved to death. It was only a matter of time before it would happen to us

 

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