At least 60 percent of household food waste in the United Kingdom is avoidable, according to the U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Of the 8.3 million metric tons of food waste that U.K. households throw away annually, 5.3 million metric tons is perfectly edible food.
Much of that food is wasted due to customer confusion over “sell-by” and “display-until” labels, the U.K. company Waste and Resources Action Programme found.
But now DEFRA has published new guidelines for food and drink makers recommending that the companies use clearer date labels to make it easier for customers to know when food is safe to eat, ultimately saving consumers money and cutting down on food waste.
DEFRA wants manufacturers to replace “sell-by” and “display-until” labels used for stock rotation with “use-by” or “best-before” dates, urging retailers to find different ways of stock control.
“Use-by” labels should only be used when the food could be unsafe after that date, the guidelines state. Most other foods should only have a ‘best-before’ date to indicate when the food’s freshness is fading, but it is still safe to eat.
“We want to end the food labeling confusion and make it clear once and for all when food is good and safe to eat,” said U.K. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman. “This simpler and safer date labeling guide will help households cut down on the £12 billion worth of good food that ends up in the bin.”