Defra launches guidance on food labelling to combat waste
Food waste news – by GreenWise staff
15th September 2011
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched new guidance on food labelling today to help food and drink manufacturers combat waste.
The guidance calls for an end to 'sell by
’ and display until
’ labels on food packaging
, which are mainly used for stock control by retailers
but have been blamed for confusing shoppers and leading to food
being wasted unnecessarily. Instead it recommends for food packaging to only carry a 'use by’ or 'best before’ date. UK households throw away 5.3 million tonnes of perfectly edible food per year and research by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has found that confusion over date labelling is one of the causes of this unnecessary waste
"We want to end the food labelling confusion and make it clear once and for all when food is good and safe to eat. This simpler and safer date labelling guide will help households cut down on the £12 billion worth of good food that ends up in the bin," Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said.
Defra said the guidance, which was produced in consultation with the food manufacturers, intends to help businesses comply with the law, which requires them to make a technical decision on whether to label their products with 'best before or 'use by’ date.
Small business support
Paticularly aimed at smaller businesses that may not have in-house knowledge or expertise to decide which date marks should apply to which foods, the guidance asks a series of questions around the production
of a food product form a microbiological perspective, said Defra. It advises packaging should only carry 'use by’ labels where the food could be unsafe after that date. Defra suggests such food would include soft cheese, ready meals and smoked fish. Most other foods should carry a 'best before’ date only, to indicate the food is still safe to eat, but may not be at its best, said Defra. Such foods would include, biscuits, jams, pickles, crisps and tinned foods.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) welcomed the new guidance today, but warned there was still a lot of confusion among shoppers about 'use by’ and 'best before’ date labelling.
"We’d like to see more public information around what these labels mean," said an FDF spokesperson.
Like this story? Please subscribe to our free weekly e-newsletter at the top of the page for more content like this.