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Labelling debate erupts as Benn moves to scrap sell-by dates

June 10, 2009 Comments Off Print Print

Environment minister Hilary Benn has provoked national debate with the announcement that the government is considering phasing out best-before and sell-by dates

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At the Chartered Institute of Waste Management’s Futuresource conference yesterday, Benn said that the labels can be confusing for consumers and they need to be clarified.

He made the comments following the announcement of the UK’s packaging strategy, which has provoked extensive comment on packagingnews.co.uk.

“When we buy something from the supermarket it should be easy to know how long you should keep it for and how you should store it,” said Benn.

“Too many of us are throwing things away simply because we’re not sure, we’re confused by the label, or we’re just playing safe,” he said.

The British Retail Consortium is in the process of making recommendations and devising a new process for sell-by and best-before labels.

“What’s more, the FSA is also reviewing its guidelines and we’ve played a majority part in this – leading the industry via the BRC,” said an Asda spokeswoman.

“Scrapping best-before dates won’t reduce food waste. Customer education will,” said BRC director general Stephen Robertson. “Date labels are there to help customers, but they need to understand what they mean.”

Sell-by and display-until dates are a method of stock control used by retailers. If they are phased out, retailers may be forced to introduce a more covert label so they know when to remove products from the shelves.

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