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Do we need sell by dates?

Best before labels could be axed. We ask, do you need them, or will common sense suffice?

Published on April 20th 2011.


Do we need sell by dates?

WANDER down any residential street in summer and there is often the unmistakable stench of rotting waste food, but could that food have been eaten?

The Government’s mission to crack down on this colossal waste could see ‘best before’ labels scrapped and ‘display until’ labels, intended as a guide for retailers, revised.

The wholesale shake-up has come about in a bid to cut vast food waste in the UK. According to the Government, we throw away about 8.3million tonnes of food each year - that’s about £680’s worth per year for an average family. Some of this food is perfectly edible, but beyond its ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date causing many consumers to cut its lifespan short in adherence to the labelling.

‘Best before’ labels seem to be the main culprit in all this. They appear on food which isn’t perishable, like confectionary and frozen food which can usually be eaten long after their date. This does make you wonder why we have best before dates in the first place, however according to the Food Standards Agency, they indicate ‘quality not safety’.

Bargain hunters can already buy short dated or past its best before date food from dedicated websites, or supermarkets. There are also lots of things which don’t always carry a use by or best before date, including wine, fresh fruit and vegetables which haven’t been chopped or peeled, chewing gum and salt.

Lots of other food on the other hand, must carry use by dates and will continue to, such as yoghurt and eggs, but can still be used for a while after their use by date as long as you employ some common sense of course.

With new guidelines expected to be announced soon to provide better information for shoppers and make them far more reluctant to throw out food before it is even opened, the future of food is set to become much more resourceful.

Do you mind sniffing your food? Or do you need best before dates? Rant below...

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