East Malling researchers greet sell-by date axe as opportunity for labelling education

Fruit and plant experts at East Malling Research (EMR) have welcomed Government moves to scrap sell-by date labels as part of a major initiative to combat food waste.

Defra said five-million tonnes of edible food and drink, with a combined cost of up to £12bn, was discarded by UK households each year. This equates to £680 for the average family.

Ministers have now issued guidance to food producers and retailers that advises them to only use best-before dates as opposed to sell-by and display-until labels.

The move is likely to have a major impact on the fresh produce industry, with fruit and vegetables making up at least 34 per cent of the UK's avoidable food waste. Potatoes, apples, bananas, lettuce, tomatoes and cabbages featured among the most common products being dumped each year.

EMR produce quality centre manager Dr Neil Hipps said: "Sell-by dates are predominantly used by retailers for stock control, whereas use-by dates relate to safety and best-before is merely a recommendation."

He added: "Removing sell-by dates reduces confusion and helps consumers waste less food. Our organisation welcomes any measure that will reduce waste in the home, whether that is fresh produce such as fruit, meats or otherwise.

"We feel that the Government's step is one in the right direction. However, we also feel there is an opportunity to help educate consumers, letting them know what each label means."

Waste Study - Consumer confusion

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which runs the Government's Love Food Hate Waste campaign, has revealed that in the UK 5.1 million potatoes, 4.4 million apples and 2.8 million tomatoes are thrown away every day.

During their research, funded by WRAP, scientists from East Malling Research discovered that consumers were generally ill-informed about the best ways to store different fruit and vegetables.

EMP produce quality centre manager Dr Neil Hipps said: "The best-before dates applied to non-processed fruits and vegetables are purely advisory.

"During our research into the labelling and storage of fresh produce, we found that the time interval between sell-by and best-before date labels was often standardised across the range of fruit and vegetables - irrespective of the degree of perishability of particular products.

"It will save a great deal of misunderstanding and waste if consumers use their own judgement about whether their fruit and vegetables are okay to use and eat."

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next

How can growers benefit by supporting agroforestry?

How can growers benefit by supporting agroforestry?

Agroforestry has the potential to deliver on a range of policy objectives in England, according to a new report from the Woodland Trust and the Soil Association.

How should perceived shortcomings in Defra's farming policy plans be addressed?

How should perceived shortcomings in Defra's farming policy plans be addressed?

The Government needs to provide much more detail on its post-Brexit farming policy if its twin aims of increasing farm competitiveness and enhancing the environment are to be met, according to a new report published this week by the parliamentary Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee.

Will UK fruit producers still have access to imported trees and plants post-Brexit?

Will UK fruit producers still have access to imported trees and plants post-Brexit?

With the UK's future trading relationships with the EU and the wider world still up in the air, the fruit-growing industry has expressed concern about whether it will still be able to bring in the fruit trees and soft-fruit plants on which it depends.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +

Horticulture Week Top UK FRUIT PRODUCERS

See our exclusive ranking of fruit producers by annual turnover. 

Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon