Wrap launches new industry guidelines for food date labels

Waste agency Wrap has today (29 November) unveiled a new date label guidance for food manufacturers and retailers to help tackle the amount of edible food discarded in UK homes.

Around 600,000 tonnes of consumer food waste are triggered each year due to date label confusion among shoppers, Wrap claims.

The organisation is calling on industry to prioritise ‘best before’ over ‘use by’, which it says should only be used when there is a food safety reason. Only one date label should be used on any product, businesses are being urged.

Wrap also wants to see a new little blue fridge icon for foods which should be kept chilled. It is currently working with the UK’s largest food companies to help them make changes across own brand and branded items.

Wrap chief executive Marcus Gover said: “A key way to help reduce household food waste is to give people as long as possible to use the food they buy. Labelling information can help with many aspects of this.

“Telling people clearly how long a product can be consumed once opened, and giving consistent and simple information about storing and freezing, will help people keep their food fresher for longer, and give more options to freeze the food and use it later- rather than binning food that could have been eaten.”

Saving money and waste

Wrap recommends the use of consistent temperate advice for chilled foods, which it claims can add an average three days life to food and save households £280m a year. A snowflake logo should be used where products are suitable for freezing, the agency insists.

A Wrap survey found that changes to packaging and labelling could help avoid around 350,000 tonnes of food waste each year, saving consumers an estimated £1bn.

In recent years, there has been more pasteurised fruit juices and hard cheeses moving from ‘use by’ to best before, and more fresh produce carrying advice to store in the fridge.

The new guidance has been produced with support from the Food Standards Agency and Defra. Environment Minister Therese Coffey called on all food businesses to use the guidelines to reduce waste and save money for consumers.

“We know that confusing labels can contribute to food waste by suggesting that edible items need to be thrown away sooner than is necessary,” Coffey said.

“This new guidance will make packaging much clearer for consumers, saving them money and reducing waste. I encourage all food businesses, large and small, to use this guidance to help them put the right date mark on food and help to guide people on the refrigeration and freezing of products which are crucial to reducing the amount of edible food thrown away.”

Top multinationals including Tesco, Kellogg and Walmart have already committed to simplify food date labels globally by 2020

Changing behaviours

UK households throw away 7.3 million tonnes of food each year – equating to around £470 worth of food being needlessly discarded every year by the average home.

In the new year, Wrap will deliver a series of digital campaigns about using and storing food such as poultry, bread and potatoes, half of which are thrown away each day.

The campaigns will focus on key behaviours driving food waste among 18-35 year olds. Evidence suggests that a generational gap in attitudes towards eating is helping to fuel the UK’s food waste mountain, driven by time-poor millennials who do not understand the value of the food on their plate.

It is understood that Wrap’s schemes will take a similar approach as Sainsbury’s Swandlincote food waste campaign, which donated 15,000 fridge thermometers to households across the town to enable consumers to check whether their fridge was at the optimum temperature for storing food.

George Ogleby

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