Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) were unable to confirm or deny reports that the labels would be axed in order to focus consumers’ attention on Use by dates.
But a spokeswoman for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) told FoodProductionDaily.com that Best before labels offered consumers valuable advice about when to enjoy food products at their best. “Best before dates are about quality; they are about saying this product is at its best over the next few days but could be safe after that,” she said.
The spokeswoman went on to acknowledge that there was scope to improve consumers’ education about labels and that they should use their noses and eyes to make judgments about food safety.
Her comments followed a report in The Sunday Telegraph which alleged that ministers planned to scrap best before dates in order to cut food waste and to end the plethora of instructions about food labeling.
New guidelines would be introduce to clarify and simply advice about food safety.
A DEFRA spokesperson told The Telegraph: “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.”
Meanwhile, the government-funded Waste Resources Action Programme confirmed that most of the 8.3m tonnes of food and drink binned each year could have been consumed if only consumers had planned, stored and managed it better.
Less than 20 per cent of food waste is truly unavoidable such as bones, cores and peelings.
About 2.9m tonnes of food and drink is thrown away because it was not used in time, it added.
The organization estimated the cost of bought then discarded food at £12bn each year.