Cutting down on food waste

When was the last time he checked the use-by date on an item in your fridge, gave a bit of fruit a squeeze or had a sniff at that packet that had been open for ages before deciding it was safest chucking it away? Chances are, fairly recently – and quite often, your binned food could still be used.

It’s estimated that we’re throwing away a massive 2 million tonnes of food each year – due to confusion over labelling. Use by dates, display until dates, sell-by dates… More often than not, we see a date stamped on the front, think it’s past it’s best, and chuck the contents. Even if it’s perfectly edible.


A new attempt is being made to make food labelling clearer, to cut back on waste. WRAP, the waste agency, say that the variety of terminology used on packaging is too confusing, and are recommending more standardised labelling to help consumers get the most out of their purchases – without risking making themselves sick.

Many items – such as milk – say to use within a certain number of days of opening, when in reality, some products can last way beyond this. Manufacturers are being advised to only use ‘use within’ when there are safety implications. WRAP also recommend that the term ‘best before’ becomes common practice, indicating that food can still be eaten, even if it’s not as fresh – putting the onus on the consumer to use their judgement.

Experts also advise that lots of food can be frozen while it’s still useable, and the best use for veg that’s nearing the end of its useable life is to turn it into a soup.


They also want clearer labelling in terms of storage, to help shoppers’ food last longer. Items like onions and bananas, for instance, shouldn’t be stored in the fridge. Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place to avoid sprouting – but if there are sprouts, you can just chop these off and use them.

Similar to the snowflake icon which signifies an item is suitable for freezing, WRAP are calling on a new blue fridge to indicate that an item should be stored in your refrigerator.

Marcus Gover, CEO at WRAP explains, “A key way to help reduce household food waste is to give people as long as possible to use the food they buy. Labelling information can help with many aspects of this. Telling people clearly how long a product can be consumed once opened, and giving consistent and simple information about storing and freezing, will help people keep their food fresher for longer, and give more options to freeze the food and use it later- rather than binning food that could have been eaten.”

You can check out WRAP’s new labelling and storage advice here.

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