Sell by date to become clearer on food labels

12th July 2010 - Fine Cut

'Sell by' and 'best before' dates are to be removed from thousands of products, in a move to reduce waste.

The government believe the current labelling system is confusing consumers, resulting in thousands of tons of food being thrown away in error every year.

At present, product labels contain four different dates including the 'sell by' and 'display until' date, which were initially introduced to help shops manage their stock. They also have a 'best before' date and the 'use by' date, with so many different dates on labels it is no wonder shoppers are finding it impossible to decipher exactly when an 'out of date' product should be thrown away.

The 'best before' date is supposed to be used as a guide so a customer knows the optimum time to eat a piece of fruit. The 'use by' date, is the only safety guide for consumers and indicates that a product could cause harm if eaten after this date.

The Government and the Food Standards Agency are looking to eradicate any confusion, by simply putting a 'use before' date on products.

Research shows that a typical family throws out approximately £610 worth of safe food each year. This totals £10billion in the UK. Figures suggest that as much as 450,000 tons of food is mistakenly thrown away before its 'best before' date. Supermarket chain Morrison's found that 55 per cent of customers will throw away an item that has past its 'best before' date, even though it is safe to eat.

A spokesman from the waste reduction body WRAP told the Daily Mail: "At least 450,00 tons of food is thrown away because it has passed its best before date, but if stored correctly should be perfectly safe to eat. Best before is a guide to food quality, not safety."

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