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Defra calls for clearer guidance on food labelling to cut waste

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will work with the food industry to cut food waste by reducing the widespread confusion over food labels.

Last week Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced that he was to tackle the confusion over food labels. According to Defra, research has shown that consumers often confuse use by and best before dates, and end up throwing away edible food that has passed its best before.

There is also confusion stemming from the use of stock control dates - display until and sell by which are often taken as an indication of food safety.

Defra will work with enforcement officials, the food industry, the Food Standards Agency and the Waste & Resources Action Programme to make it clearer when food is safe to eat. The current FSA guidance on food labelling will be revised, storage guidance will be improved so that consumers understand how to store food correctly, and stock control labels may be phased out.

Speaking at the Futuresource conference, Benn explained how thousands of tonnes of food are thrown away every year due to confusion over labels such as best before.

He said: When we buy food it should be easy to know how long we should keep it for and how we should store it. Too many of us are putting things in the bin simply because were not sure, were confused by the label, or were just playing safe. As part of our war on waste I want to improve the labels on our food so that when we buy a loaf of bread or a packet of cold meat, we know exactly how long its safe to eat.

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