The BRC issued its announcement in response to a proposal by a group of European Union states calling 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.

A BRC spokesman told that the BRC believes that the Commission and member states should undertake some research and “identify where the real confusion is before they suggest expanding the list of exemptions”.

He added: “Given that customers do not have an understanding of the period of time on which a food is safe or of a certain quality, there is a risk that removing the date from certain foods will result in customers throwing more food away.”

According to the BRC, retailers use durability dates on food packaging for a number of purposes. For example, these dates are use in-store for stock rotation. Additionally, the dates codify further information used to allow product traceability.

“Therefore, even if the law removed the mandatory requirement for the provision of durability indication on certain foods, retailers would continue to use them,” a BRC spokesman said. “A more effective measure to reduce household food waste would be to educate customers on the difference between ‘use by’ and best before dates and what these two terms mean.”

BRC food and sustainability director Andrew Opie told “Best before dates do have a purpose, not least in ensuring quality when products are sold, therefore, we would want to see evidence that removing them would cut food waste. In the meantime, we should all do everything we can to help consumers understand the meaning of best before and use by dates to avoid throwing food away unnecessarily.”

A Food and Drink Federation (FDF) spokeswoman added: “Food labelling is an important means of providing essential information to consumers and any decision on best before dates should consider consumer understanding and education. Further investigation is required into potential unintended consequence of increasing food waste by removal of date marks and we’re engaged in discussions with Defra on this.”

Liz Gyekye

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