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UK: Reducing confusion over food labels

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced new measures to cut food waste by reducing the widespread confusion over food labels, according to a report by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

It has been indicated by research that consumers confuse ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates, and end up throwing away perfectly edible food that has passed its ‘best before’.

The report states that the confusion comes about from the use of stock control dates – ‘display until’ and ‘sell by’ – which are often taken as an indication of food safety.

Defra will work with enforcement officials, the food industry, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to make it clearer when food is safe to eat.

Revised guidance on food labelling

The current FSA guidance on food labelling will be revised, storage guidance will be improved. This is for consumers to grasp a better understanding on how to store food correctly, and stock control labels may be phased out.

Benn has stated how thousands of tonnes of food are thrown away every year because of confusion over labels such as ‘best before’.

‘“When we buy food it should be easy to know how long we should keep it for and how we should store it.  Too many of us are putting things in the bin simply because we’re not sure, we’re confused by the label, or we’re just playing safe. As part of our war on waste I want to improve the labels on our food so that when we buy a loaf of bread or a packet of cold meat, we know exactly how long it’s safe to eat,” he said.

Source: DEFRA

Natalie Berkhout

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