While WRAP is approaching this from the angle of cutting waste, shelf-life is also a hot topic for food manufacturers and retailers looking to reduce costs. Experts are confident there's plenty of room for improvement without impacting on food safety.
"People are getting better at doing food safety," said Professor Mike Peck, food microbiologist with the Institute of Food Research. "You need to know what you're doing and deliver the process more effectively, whether that's using preservatives, a heat process or better chill chain control. But by better understanding safety margins we can reduce them."
For example, he argued that manufacturers might previously have had to choose between extending shelf-life and reducing their use of preservatives, while a more sophisticated understanding might, in future, enable them to accomplish both.
Retailers also stressed the importance of maintaining food safety when reformulating food.
"The WRAP project acknowledges the need to maintain food safety and this is of paramount importance to retailers," said Elizabeth Andoh-Kesson, food policy adviser with the British Retail Consortium.
"With recent reformulation work on salt reduction, any work to extend shelf-life will be dependent on ensuring that safety is not compromised."
The WRAP consultation will conclude this autumn. Among other things, the proposals suggest finding out if there is scope to narrow the gap between the current stated shelf-life of products and the maximum safe shelf-life, as well as looking to extend 'once open, use within' for use at home by consumers.
"The results of this engagement will help WRAP establish how best it can support industry to give consumers longer to use the foods they buy," WRAP told Food Manufacture in a statement.
The WRAP consultation is just the latest initiative on shelf-life. Peck was the chief scientist involved in the Sustainable Shelf-Life Extension (SUSSLE) Link project, for example, which aimed to enable participating companies to extend the shelf-life of their chilled, ready-to-eat products using a new, heat-based approach.
The results of the three-year project were presented to partners in June, but will not be released externally until April 2014.