WRAP begins consultation on updating industry guidance for date labels and related consumer advice

6th July 2017

As announced in February, WRAP 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).

This 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)
 
WRAP is also directly consulting with food businesses, trade bodies, redistribution organisations and others, including through various Courtauld Commitment 2025 Working Groups.
 
We expect to publish the completed guidance later in 2017.
 
Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey said:“The food and catering industries have made strong progress in reducing household food waste by a million tonnes since 2007, but there is still a way to go. We know that confusing labels can contribute to food waste by suggesting items need to be thrown away sooner than is necessary, which is why this new guidance will make packaging much clearer for people as they do their weekly shop.”

Context

Around 2 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.

Notes to editor 

First established in 2000, WRAP is a not for profit organisation and registered charity whose vision is a world where resources are used sustainably. WRAP works with governments, businesses and communities to deliver practical solutions to improve resource efficiency.

Our mission is to accelerate the move to a sustainable resource-efficient economy through: 

a. re-inventing how we design, produce and sell products,

b. re-thinking how we use and consume products, and

c. re-defining what is possible through re-use and recycling.

Contact

Ian Palmer

PR Officer, WRAP
01295 819 677