UK con­sumers told to keep ap­ples in fridge as part of wider la­belling shake-up

The Guardian Australia - - Environment - Re­becca Smithers Con­sumer af­fairs cor­re­spon­dent

Bags of su­per­mar­ket ap­ples will carry a new logo ad­vis­ing con­sumers to keep them in the fridge to make them last longer as part of a shake-up of food la­belling aimed aimed at cut­ting about 350,000 tonnes of do­mes­tic food waste – worth £1bn – by 2025.

The con­fus­ing and some­times mis­lead­ing “dis­play by”, “best by” and “use by” dates on pack­ag­ing is be­ing sim­pli­fied to en­cour­age shoppers to get the most out of their larder, fridge and freezer.

New guid­ance for re­tail­ers from the gov­ern­ment’s food ad­vi­sory body Wrap – pro­duced in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Food Stan­dards Agency (FSA) and the en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment – aims to help tackle the 2m tonnes of food wasted each year in UK homes be­cause it is not used in time. A third of this food waste hap­pens be­cause shoppers wrongly in­ter­pret ex­ist­ing la­bels.

“We know that con­fus­ing la­bels can con­trib­ute to food waste by sug­gest­ing that ed­i­ble items need to be thrown away sooner than is nec­es­sary,” said en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Thérèse Cof­fey. “This new guid­ance will make pack­ag­ing much clearer for con­sumers, sav­ing 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 guide peo­ple on the re­frig­er­a­tion and freez­ing of prod­ucts which are cru­cial to re­duc­ing the amount of ed­i­ble food thrown away.”

Wrap is now work­ing with the UK’s largest food com­pa­nies and man­u­fac­tur­ers to help im­ple­ment changes across hun­dreds of thousands of own-brand and branded prod­ucts.

Among the key changes, more fresh pro­duce will carry ad­vice – in the form of a new “lit­tle blue fridge” icon ap­pear­ing in the new year – to be stored in the fridge to keep it fresher for longer. A bag of ap­ples could last two weeks longer if stored in a fridge. A third of UK fridges are in­ef­fi­cient be­cause they are too warm – one-third of those at more than 9C and two-thirds above 5C.

Wrap is also call­ing for the fa­mil­iar freez­ing snowflake logo to be re­in­stated on pack­ag­ing and for ad­vice to “freeze on day of pur­chase” to be re­placed by “freeze be­fore the date shown”, par­tic­u­larly on fresh meat.

Sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of date la­belling is un­der­way, Wrap said, fol­low­ing its 2015 re­tailer sur­vey which re­vealed con­fu­sion in food la­belling and stor­age ad­vice. In 2009 40% of packs had two sep­a­rate date la­bels (“dis­play un­til” with ei­ther “use by” or “best be­fore”) which fell to less than 3% in 2015.

“Use by” dates are im­por­tant as they pro­tect con­sumers from po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous bac­te­ria that could be within food af­ter that date, while “best be­fore” is more of a qual­ity guide.

Re­tail­ers are un­der pres­sure in­crease the amount of sur­plus food they give away to food dis­tri­bu­tion char­i­ties such as FareShare, and Wrap wants clearer la­belling to fa­cil­i­tate this. It be­lieves there is po­ten­tial to in­crease re­dis­tri­bu­tion four­fold by 2025 – creat­ing at least 360m more meals.

Bags of fresh pro­duce will have clear la­bels ad­vis­ing which items can be kept in the fridge to last longer. Pho­to­graph: Ja­son Alden/Bloomberg/Getty Images

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