Food label changes ‘could save £1bn a year’

By Matt Atherton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Domestic food waste could be cut by £1bn a year by improving food labelling and packaging
Domestic food waste could be cut by £1bn a year by improving food labelling and packaging
Household food waste could be cut by £1bn a year by improving food packaging and labelling, says the Waste & Resources Action Plan (WRAP).

Food labelling’s impact continued to reduce waste over the past four years, but there was still room for improvement, a government-funded report from WRAP claimed today (February 27).

The report – WRAP Retailer Survey​ – revealed food manufacturers had reduced food packaging with multiple date labels on, the use of ‘Open life’ labels and storage guidance.

Products with more than one date label had reduced to fewer than 3%, since 2011. Hard cheese and pasteurised fruit juices generally changed from using ‘use by’ labels to ‘best before’ labels, which gave consumers more time to eat the product, the report claimed.

Good progress

WRAP also reported ‘open life’ labels – guidance on how long to keep a product after it had been opened – had been extended. Refrigerating and storage guidance was largely consistent with WRAP recommendations, it said.

But, the food sector needed to increase storage time labels, package sizes and increase the frequency of ‘Snowflake logos’, WRAP claimed.

The amount of time recommended for keeping food had reduced in some cases, WRAP said. The use of the Snowflake logo – indicating foods suitable for freezing – fell over the past four years, and there was “an urgent need to reinforce its value on pack”​, WRAP claimed.

It also said the use of smaller pack sizes in some food categories had dropped – particularly for pre-packed bread. Smaller loaves were also “significantly”​ more expensive on a per kilo basis, the report showed.

Government-funded WRAP was working with the Food Standards Agency on updating on-pack date advice, and guidance for storage and freezing, it revealed. The new guidance was expected to be published in Autumn 2017.

350,000t of domestic food waste

Changes to food packaging and labelling would prevent about 350,000t of domestic food waste a year, WRAP said.

WRAP director Steve Reed said: “Our report shows a mixed bag in terms of overall results. There are areas where good work continues to make a real difference and others where there is room for improvement. These insights provide a crucial snapshot of what industry is doing, and where more work is needed.

“We know that changes to packs and labels, which give clarity around date and storage options, can have a dramatic effect on how much good food ends up in the bin. Around 150,000t of household food waste was avoided in 2015 compared with 2007, as a result of technical changes to products, saving families around £400M a year.”

Meanwhile, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) reported a 3% decrease in supply chain waste​ across the grocery sector, earlier this month. Manufacturers sent zero food and packaging waste to landfill in 2015, the FDF claimed.

WRAP Retail Survey – at a glance

  • £1bn a year could be saved after changes to packaging and labelling
  • Less than 3% of products have multiple date labels
  • ‘use by’ labels change to ‘best before’
  • Increase life-span on ‘open life’ labels
  • Storage time guidance largely in-line with recommendations
  • Storage time reduced in some cases
  • More Snowflake logos needed
  • Smaller pack sizes decreased in some cases
  • Smaller bread loaves more expensive per kilo

Related topics: Packaging materials, Packaging, Environment

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