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