How food packaging and labels are changing to reduce food waste

Food labelling has always seemed straightforward, hasn’t it? Yet, perfectly edible food is thrown away by the tonne every year due to the confusion many consumers feel when checking labels.


The main issue is the difference between, “best before” dates, and, “use by” dates.


  • “Best before” dates when the food is at its best in terms of flavour and quality.
  • “Use by” dates when the food is actually safe to eat.


However, many people throw out food several days – or even weeks – prior to their “use by” dates as they only go by the “best before” dates labelled on food.


And some people even throw away food before its “best by” date. Fruits and vegetables in particular are thrown out with worrying frequency.


In a bid to tackle this extensive food waste, the Chair of North London Waste Authority (NLWA) Councillor Clyde Loakes, has called on the food industry to find a solution to the labelling confusion.



Supermarket giants taking steps to help consumers…


WRAP estimates 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year in the UK alone. Households and hospitality businesses waste 18% of all food purchased on average.


And following a study, it was revealed that 69% of consumers agree that removing “best before” dates is a good idea; when people glance at an expiration date, many people throw the food item away without a second thought.


By removing “best before” dates, it will be easier for consumers to tell whether food items are okay to eat or need to be thrown out.


Tesco recently stepped up to the challenge and removed “best before” dates from over 100 fruit and vegetable items to make things easier for consumers.


Mark Little, Head of Food Waste Reduction at Tesco, said, “Removing best before dates is our way of making it easier for customers to reduce food waste at home and save money in the process.”






Food waste over the Christmas season


Did you know: if all the food wasted at Christmas was recycled into energy via Anaerobic Digestion (AD) it would power the average medium-sized home for 57 years.


Over a third of all sprouts produced in the UK are harvested for Christmas, despite a quarter of the population claiming to hate the vegetable. And although mince pies are a firm festive favourite, 74 million of them are thrown away every Christmas according to Unilever.


Christmas is a time of year notorious for excess, including overbuying and wasting more food than usual. With the festive season coming up, planning meals and managing portion sizes can make an enormous difference to reducing the amount of food which ends up in the bin.  


However, the manufacturers and food retailers helping to simplify food labels is a significant step in reducing the volume of food wasted in the UK as we approach the end of 2018.










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“Best before” is a label which dates when the food is at its best. “Use by” dates when the food is safe to eat. 
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