This week, I've read a few online articles about the confusion different food labelling can cause among shoppers. But, this time, it's not about RDA's (recommended daily allowance) or fat content or salt levels. It's about dates. Do shoppers know the difference between use-by, best-before, display-until and sell-by? Apparently not. It's reported £12bn worth of edible food is thrown away every year. And food labeling is part of the problem.
Just for clarification:
- Use-by - the date by which it is SAFE to eat.
- Best-before - the day by which it is BEST to eat, but is usually NOT unsafe to do so after.
- Display-until and Sell-by - dates used by shops to keep track of and rotate stock.
The Government has advised that sell-by and display-until dates by removed from packaging, and rightly so. But, there is also some concern over whether the use-by and best-before dates used are accurate enough. I think it's understandable that companies will air on the side of caution when it comes to producing these dates. They would otherwise be at risk of being sued if anyone did get ill from out-of-date foods. However, it's claimed that such products as eggs and yoghurt could last well beyond the stated date.
Apart from reading labels correctly, there are other ways of reducing food waste.
Firstly, shop in the reduced sections. Supermarkets count towards a large percentage of food waste, but if you buy it they can't bin it. Just make sure you don't forget about the food and bin it yourself.
Secondly, buy ugly. Supermarkets ask their producers to supply perfect products. Any knobbly bits or irregular shapes, and it's thrown away.
Lastly, at home, use everything you can. Make a stock out of the roast chicken carcass and vegetable peelings. Turn stale bits of bread into breadcrumbs. And plan your meals.
The Guardian: Best before, still fine after
Food Standards Agency: Guidance on the application of date labels to food (pdf)