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WRAP launches industry consultation on date labelling

WRAP has today (Thursday 6th July) announced it will begin consultation on updating industry guidance for date labels and related consumer advice.

The resource efficiency organisation is currently working with UK Governments and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to update industry guidance on the application of on-pack date and related advice (storage and freezing guidance).

The guidance aims to assist further reductions in food waste at home and remove key barriers to redistribution. The guidance will cover:

  • What the different date labels mean, and how best to decide which date to apply in relation to curtailing food waste (and the consequences of this decision)
  • The importance of maximising both ‘closed’ and ‘open’ life, whilst ensuring quality and safety are maintained
  • The importance of correct storage guidance, including fridge temperature and freezing advice
  • What can (and cannot) be done as the date approaches / is passed (for sale / redistribution)

A draft of the updated guidance is now available for review and comment until August 3rd 2017.

Around two million tonnes of food is thrown away from households due to ‘not being used in time’, and for a third of this, the date label is cited as a factor. Giving consumers longer to make use of the food they buy has the potential to significantly reduce household food waste. This can be influenced for example by the choice of date applied (‘Best Before’ rather than ‘Use By’), the length of time between purchase and the date expiring (so called ‘closed life’), any guidance on how long a product can be consumed once it has been opened (‘open life’) and optimal storage/freezing guidance.

WRAP estimated the potential further impact of technical changes at around 350,000 tonnes of avoidable food waste, with a value of around £1 billion a year.

In addition, WRAP research found that in 2015, 270,000 tonnes of surplus food from manufacturing and retail could have been suitable for redistribution, whilst only 47,000 tonnes was actually redistributed. Feedback from those involved in surplus food redistribution, both donors and recipients, has revealed that there are significant barriers relating to date labels on surplus food packaging, and confusion around what can or cannot be done as dates approach or are passed.

The WRAP press release is available here.

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