Sell By dates to be scrapped to stop confusion and staggering food waste

AP Photo/Pat Roque

If you have ever been confused about the difference between Use By, Sell By, Best Before or Display Until dates on food then relax, because help is on its way as the government moves to simplify the system.

As of today, Sell By and Display Until dates are to be phased out. That means manufacturers will no longer be able to mislead us into thinking that perfectly good food is off. So it should not only save shoppers money, it should stop the staggering waste good food that is binned every day.
According to Wrap, the waste reduction body, 1.3million unopened yoghurt pots are chucked every single day along with 5million potatoes, a million loaves of bread, 440,000 ready meals, 5,500 chickens and a million slices of ham.

That all makes part of the 8.3million tons of food and drink that is dumped each year, of which, Wrap say, 60% is avoidable.

Stock information
All this is because the consumer is interpreting Sell By and Display Until dates as food safety advice when, in fact, they are only there as stock information for the supermarket.

What will happen as these are phased out is the most foods like tinned and dry goods, jams, pickles and snacks will carry a Best Before date showing when they will no longer be at their best though they will still be safe to eat.

Then perishable foods like meat, soft cheese, fish and ready meals, that are actually unsafe to eat after a certain point will carry a Use By date.

Food manufacturers are being urged to look at different labelling ideas, such as colour codes, to replace the Sell By and Display Until dates for supermarket stockers.

The problem remaining, however, is that supermarkets own-brand products have not been included in the new regime and this needs to be sorted out separately.

And might there be some resistance here? Well, call me cynical but the more perfectly good food we throw out, thinking it bad, then the more we have to shop to replace it.

Maybe, just maybe, the fact that we've been misled into thinking this way by duff labelling has made the supermarkets a helluva lot of money.

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