It is estimated that the UK throws away about £12b-worth of edible food each year and environment secretary Caroline Spelman recently blamed confusion over food labelling for around £750m of the annual edible food wastage.
Last month, the Food Standards agency and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published new guidelines for the food industry in an effort to end the confusion on ‘use by' or ‘best before' date labels.
The new guidelines work to give greater clarity to the food industry - so ‘use-by' labels should only be used where the food could be unsafe after that date. Most other foods should have a ‘best-before' date only, to indicate when the food is no longer at its best, but is still safe to eat.
Foods likely to require a ‘use-by' date include soft cheese, ready-prepared meals and smoked fish. ‘Best-before' date foods include biscuits, jams, pickles, crisps and tinned foods.
Where consumers are concerned, the new guidelines aim to ensure that the right date marks are used on food labels to make it easier for them to known when food is safe to eat.
Still confused? Complex legal requirements and best practice rules has turned legislation-compliant food labelling into a potential minefield for the industry. Many caterers aren't aware that there are simple solutions available to them, such as http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2011/10/28/340898/food-safety-label-kit-from-bunzl-catering-supplies.html" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">Food Safety Label Kitswhich usually contain 7-day labels, use-by labels, shelf-life labels and a colour-coded wall chart to remind users which colour denotes which day of the week.
Paul Willcocks, director of own brands,Bunzl Catering Supplies.