Are confusing food labels putting Scotland’s new circular economy strategy at risk?

The Scottish Government has been warned that its ambitious new circular economy strategy could unravel due confusing food labels that cause more than 50% of the UK's residents to throw away perfectly edible food.

Approved Food, the largest online retailer of short-dated and residual stock food, surveyed 2,079 people from across the UK on their food waste habits.

The organisation found that more than 50% of people across Scotland – which accounted for 156 of respondents – now throw away food that is approaching or past its best-before date despite it being perfectly safe to eat, with 62% citing ‘getting ill’ as the primary reason for doing so.

The researchers gleaned that 11% of people in Scotland are mistakenly attributing ‘food waste’ by failing to realise that best-before dates are in fact indicative of an item’s quality rather than its safety. In the country’s capital, Edinburgh, more than half (52%) of people admitted to throwing food away – higher than the UK average of 42%.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding around food labelling and it can be confusing,” said Approved Food’s founder Dan Cluderay. “People are puzzled by what ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ actually mean, so it is little wonder that families are throwing away perfectly good food when they don’t need to.

“It’s vital to make sure people understand food dates and labelling and we want to make sure people are thinking before they throw food away. But until something is done to tackle this confusion we simply don’t see that the ambitious targets laid out by the Scottish Government are achievable.”


These figures were released one day after the Scottish Government announced bold plans to reduce food waste by 33% by 2025. As part of a broader circular economy strategy, Scotland’s food waste pledge has a nine-year timeframe and would save businesses and households across the country more than £500m if successfully implemented.

Since it was founded in 2008, Approved Food has worked with manufacturers and suppliers to divert 32 million food and drink items away from landfill. The organisation is spearheading a #PerfectlyGood campaign to raise awareness of the difference between best-before and use-by dates, in a bid to reduce waste and save the UK £50m.

Last year, a group of European Union states led by the Netherlands and Sweden called on the European Commission to scrap ‘best-before’ labels on a host of long-life products in a bid to cut down on food waste. But the British Retail Consortium has warned that scrapping ‘best-before’ dates on packaging altogether could lead to more food waste.

Britain’s largest food redistribution charity FareShare recently spoke to edie about food waste, with it’s director of food Mark Varney urging a shift in focus towards supply chains to tackle the issue.

Matt Mace

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