U.K. seeks to reform date stamps on food packaging

A worker stocks milk and dairy products.

Jeremy Hobson: You know the sell-by dates on food packaging that tell you when the food should've left the store shelves? Well the U.K. government wants manufacturers to get rid of the sell-by date so Brits will stop wasting food.

The BBC's Kate McGough has the story now from London.


Kate McGough: Households in U.K. throw away more than 5 million tons of edible food every year. For the average family, that means throwing out almost $1,000. Anti-waste campaigners say that dates printed on food packages are partly to blame. People are confused by multiple printings.

The U.K.'s Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, says people are throwing away food before they need to.

Caroline Spelman: I had a quick look through the products in my fridge this morning and indeed it's very confusing. There's several dates on the food products -- sometimes it's 'use by', sometimes it's 'sell by', sometimes it's 'display until', sometimes it's 'best before'. Consumers are saying this is confusing.

New government guidelines want manufacturers to completely scrap "sell-by" and "display until" dates on food, which are only intended to help retailers with stock control.

But the British Retail Consortium, composed of large and small store owners, wants the government to stay out of the fridge, saying a better approach would be to educate people on what the different dates mean.

In London, I'm the BBC's Kate McGough for Marketplace.

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