The move is to help tackle the two million tonnes of food wasted each year in UK homes purely from it not being used in time. A third of this food waste is triggered because of how shoppers interpret existing date labels.
New guidance, published by sustainability experts WRAP in association with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Defra, sets out best practice in the choice and application of date labels and storage advice.
It will be used by food manufacturers, retailers and brands as the industry standard and brings together recommendations that ensures food is safe and adheres to legal requirements, with best practice information to ensure it is stored and used within time.
A new addition is the call to use helpful logos alongside text more often, which consumers find easier to understand than text alone.
The organisation is calling for the freezing Snowflake logo to be reinstated where it might have been removed, and introduces a new ‘Little Blue Fridge’ icon for foods which should be kept chilled, or benefit from being kept in the fridge.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “We know that confusing labels can contribute to food waste by suggesting that edible items need to be thrown away sooner than is necessary.
“This new guidance will make packaging much clearer for consumers, saving them money and reducing waste.
“I encourage all food businesses, large and small, to use this guidance to help them put the right date mark on food and help to guide people on the refrigeration and freezing of products which are crucial to reducing the amount of edible food thrown away.”
The guide has been developed following WRAP’s 2015 Retailer Survey, which found an overall ‘mixed-bag’ in food labelling and storage advice.
WRAP reported that changes to products, packaging and labelling made in response to earlier recommendations avoided nearly 150,000 tonnes of food being wasted in 2015, saving families an estimated £400 million.
WRAP is currently working with the UK’s largest food companies and manufacturers to help them implement changes across own brand and branded items.
With the average retailer stocking between 20,000 and 30,000 different products, changes will take time to appear on shelf but early indications are that more changes will soon begin to appear.