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Wise Up To Waste

Chair of NLWA calls for an end to food labelling confusion to prevent food waste

The Chair of North London Waste Authority (NLWA), Councillor Clyde Loakes, is calling on the food industry to find a solution to the food labelling confusion that leads to people throwing away tonnes of perfectly edible food.[1] [2]

The announcement comes as supermarket Tesco promised to remove ‘best before’ dates from about 70 fruit and vegetable items to make things simpler for consumers.

In light of this confusion NLWA is running a campaign to help residents understand the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by dates’. The FANCY THAT! campaign aims to remind north Londoners that ‘best before’ dates only tell us when food is at its best, whereas ‘use by’ dates tell us when food is safe to eat, and therefore must be followed.

Councillor Clyde Loakes, Chair of North London Waste Authority, said: “We know that many people are confused by the different date labels they find on food. We can’t blame people for looking around the kitchen, seeing an expired date, and chucking that item away.

“The trouble is that often food past its ‘best before’ date could still be good to eat. That’s why we’re running a campaign to help people understand the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’. If we look, smell, feel and taste food to judge for ourselves we can all make the most of the food we buy and throw less away.

“But we also need food manufacturers to look at the labelling they use to try and make things less confusing for people. Some supermarkets and wholesalers have stopped using ‘best before’ dates on loads of their fruit and vegetables – maybe other manufacturers and suppliers need to consider whether ‘best before’ dates are always essential when so much perfectly good food is thrown away every year?

“Many consumers already buy food that doesn’t have a date stamp on it when they buy from their local greengrocer or bakery. In those cases they use their senses to work out when something is past its best. We’re simply asking whether the same logic could be applied to a wider variety of packaged foods.

“Food waste is a huge problem in the UK[3]; there are lots of things we can do as consumers to help reduce the amount we throw away – get portion sizes right, plan meals, freeze food before it hits the use by date, use up leftovers, and so on – but it’s also time food manufacturers and suppliers did more to help.”

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[1] A study carried out by the European Commission, published in February 2018, estimated that up to 10% of the food waste generated annually in the EU is linked to date labels.

[2] In 2015, 250,000 tonnes of edible food was thrown away. [Source: WRAP - http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Food%20Surplus%20Redistribution%20Estimate%202017%20-%20Information%20sheet.pdf

[3]UK households waste 7.1 million tonnes of food and drink every single, costing the average family £70 every single month. [Source: WRAP - https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/article/be-freezer-hero#page-header]