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

16 September 2011

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."


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