Wrap issues new guidelines to prevent confusing date labels

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Waste agency Wrap has advised retailers to follow its new guidance to improve food labelling and prevent edible produce from being wasted.

Wrap believes food labels use too many different terms, which means many consumers throw away usable food. It says a third of the two million tonnes of food thrown away in the UK annually is caused by confusion over date labels. 

Wrap, in association with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Defra, is advising retailers to follow its new labelling guidance. The organisation is calling for the freezing Snowflake logo to be reinstated on packaging and for a new Little Blue Fridge icon to be used for foods which should be kept chilled, or would benefit from being kept in the fridge.

Retailers are urged to prioritise the use of the term ‘best before’ - which shows that the food is safe to eat, even after the date on pack has passed. Terms like ‘display until’ and ‘used within’ should only be used for food safety reasons, Wrap said in its guidance.

Environment minister Therese Coffey said: “We know that confusing labels can contribute to food waste by suggesting that edible items need to be thrown away sooner than is necessary.

“This new guidance will make packaging much clearer for consumers, saving them money and reducing waste.”

Wrap chief executive Marcus Gover said: “A key way to help reduce household food waste is to give people as long as possible to use the food they buy. Labelling information can help with many aspects of this. Telling people clearly how long a product can be consumed once opened, and giving consistent and simple information about storing and freezing, will help people keep their food fresher for longer, and give more options to freeze the food and use it later- rather than binning food that could have been eaten.”

Chairman of the FSA Heather Hancock said: “I welcome this clear guidance to help tackle food waste, without compromising the safety of food. It will help businesses supply food that is properly described and stored, and safely provided to consumers. Reducing food waste is really important to consumers. It’s a commitment we at the Food Standards Agency share with WRAP and Defra, and a growing majority of food businesses up and down the country.”

Wrap estimates that changes to products, packaging and labelling, made in response to earlier recommendations in 2015, stopped nearly 150,000 tonnes of food from being thrown away, saving families around £400m.

Read the guidance here.

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