Government moves to scrap sell-by dates to cut food waste

The Government is considering scrapping best-before and sell-by dates to cut Britain’s £6bn food waste mountain.

Caroline Spelman

Ministers have said that best-before dates encourage people to throw away food that is fine to eat and will urge shops to use use-by dates instead.

Confusion over the labels is reckoned to be one reason why 5.3 million tonnes of edible food and drink are thrown away every year.

The Government want a “risk-based approach” with labels explaining the danger of eating old food.

Ministers will urge manufacturers to scrap sell-by and display-until dates which exist largely to help shops control stock levels.

Householders in the UK throw away 8.3m tonnes of food and drink every year, 5.3m tonnes of which could have been eaten, according to WRAP.

Original idea

The original idea on scrapping best before dates came from the previous Environment Minister Hilary Benn.  He said that the labels can be confusing for consumers and they need to be clarified.

The Government hope the shake-up will cut the huge amount of food that goes to landfill sites because it has passed its best-before date.

Fish, prawns and eggs will have to carry detailed labels warning of risks if eaten past a certain date. But shops will be urged to put one use-by label on most other food.

‘Still safe’

A  Defra spokesperson said: “By law, pre-packed food must show a ‘best before’ date – even though many foods are still safe to eat after that date.

“This is very different from the ‘use by’ date that shows when food is no longer safe and should be thrown away. Being clear on the difference between the two could help us all to reduce our food waste.”

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman added: “I am dismayed so much food goes to waste and if the date labels are part of the problem, it’s one thing we should be able to improve.”