New food expiration date guidelines can help you save on your shopping


Ministers are calling for sell-by dates to be removed from groceries. We throw away around £12 billion of edible food each year, says the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The government hopes to end this by doing away with confusing packaging.

New government advice states that companies should stop using sell-by and display-until labels as these are only useful for stock control within stores and confuse consumers. They want packaging to feature only use-by or best-before dates.

"We want to end the food labelling confusion and make it clear once and for all when food is good and safe to eat," says environment secretary Caroline Spelman. "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."

Money in the bin

UK households could save up to £50 a month by not throwing things out unless they are truly inedible, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme.

However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has come out against the plans. It believes better food education should be the solution rather than changing labels. "If the government really wants to make a difference to reducing food waste it should be educating consumers about the two basic terms – use-by and best-before," says Andrew Opie, food director at the BRC.

"The system is carefully used by retailers and it isn’t complicated. 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. The government should be spreading that message, not focusing on retail practices."


More about

Your Comments

the big food companies are hypocrits, they try to promote green issues but the truth is profit comes before the planet, scrap the 'supermarket benefit' dates so consumers aren't misled!

look at the Food Standards Agency website for info.

Yeh nice one - good idea

People buy too much food anyway and I don't think waste is always caused by the mis-understanding of sell by or use by dates. Just look at people in the supermarket and you can see by the amounts in their trolleys that they are either greedy or too much money to waste. It is common sense not to buy more than you know you will eat!

Return to the old fashioned way of telling whether food is ok to eat; does it look ok; does it smell ok; does it taste ok ? If so eat it. Remove all dates from packaging band use your common sense.

it is obviously cheaper for supermarket chains and food retailers to bin food after a finite length of time than risk any claim from customers or bad press publicity which would inevitably follow any case of illhealt and affect their sales .

The foods destroyed are costed into the price of all items sold and therefore do not harm sales.

it will take a generation for young consumers to trust their eyes and noses as their parents and grandparents did before them and this will happen when their finances become strained and they cannot afford to waste the foods they buy.
However food is not only wasted by retailers in stores but also throughout the food production industry as the customer allegedly demands perfect produce

food chain as we supposedly demand visually perfect products

government must not legislate on this issue as it may renders consumers unable to decide for themselves on the most basic of issues ,food for themselves and their families.

They have only brainwashed young people and those with no common sense. Your eyes and nose tell you if the food is fit for consumption or not. My daughter would go on a binning spree from my fridge, based on the sell by dates, until I put my foot down. She still won't believe me despite the fact I'm still here to tell the tale. Let's face it, we all tend to buy too much and retailers selling tactics ought to be judged first since we are conned into buying more than we need!
Having just lost my daughter to a flat with its own fridge, I am having to come to terms with buying less. Retailers are not making it easy! Half price bargains are better than 2 for ones for the customer. Not good business though!
I bet some people are super at getting their shop right each week and hardly throw anything out. Unfortunately some busy working mums have lots of other things on their agenda to take up their time and will never quite manage to not waste food, especially if their sons and daughters skip the meals at home and eat out!

The expiration date that seems on packaged food is complicated to a lot of people, largely as a result of phrases used, such as “Best Before,” “Sell By” or “Use By.” Is food still secure to eat on that date, or somewhat after that date? Let's think about saving money by understanding what that expiration date means. Check more here.

Short dated food is plentiful around Christmas time, (Tesco/Sainsbury's) yet as soon as the festive season is over, the same food with longer dates are back on the shelves.  This is a ploy  to purchase, eat, and return back to the shop as soon as they open, to buy more.