Food firms join campaign to ditch use by dates

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

More than 40 brands have pledged to drop use by dates from packaging to help curb food waste
More than 40 brands have pledged to drop use by dates from packaging to help curb food waste

Related tags: best before date, Waste

More than 40 food and drink brands have signed up to an initiative to move away from use by labels in an effort to encourage consumers to use their senses to assess the quality of their food.

The Look, Smell, Taste. Don’t Waste campaign launched by Too Good To Go hoped to drive down food waste by encouraging consumers to keep food if it still appeared to be safe to eat, instead on relying on use by dates. This campaign has been supported by food brands shifting away from use by dates when it is safe to do so. 

Food firms signed up to the initiative now include Arla, Bel Group, Danone, Emmi UK, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Savencia and Yeo Valley Organic. 

Jamie Crummie, co-founder of Too Good To Go, said: There is still a huge amount of consumer education to be done, and there are tonnes more brands who we’d love to join our campaign in order to make even greater strides in reducing household food waste. 

Calling on brands

“I’m calling on other brands who haven’t yet taken the steps to join the campaign to get in touch – we’d love to have you join our food waste movement.” 

Morrisons made news last month after announcing it would be dropping use by dates from its fresh milk, instead encouraging consumers to take the sniff test to ensure their milk was still good to drink. 

However, Campden BRI questioned if the sniff test was really enough to replace use by dates. 

While the move would – in the case of fresh milk – help to massively reduce waste, the decision to change the type of date used needed to base don a thorough risk assessment of the likelihood of contamination of the milk with pathogens, most likely Listeria monocytogenes, and the potential for it to grow to dangerous levels. 

Good data

Phil Voysey, a microbiologist at Campden, BRI said: “It is vital to base decisions to move from “Use by” to “Best before” on good data. Consumer assessment of milk quality before they use it is not going to include pathogens they can’t smell such as Listeria monocytogenes.  

“Consumers may not even be aware that there is the potential for pathogens to be able to grow in their milk. In essence, the sniff test would not necessarily assure a safe product.” 

Campden BRI is seeking members for a club-funded project looking to provide a risk assessment and pooled historical data for companies that wish to consider a move from Use by date to Best before dates on pasteurised fresh milk.  

The project aims to provide participants with a resource that can be drawn on to support their own risk assessments and enable them to do what the UK Food Standards Agency call, “a robust assessment of microbiological risk”. 

Voysey added: “A decision to switch from one date to another is a significant move. We want to provide useful data to companies that may not have the resources to embark on a risk assessment and data analysis programme to support their switch. 

“The collaborative approach proposed here has the potential to accelerate the process for any member of the consortium and hopefully reduce food waste.” 

Related topics: Environment

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2 comments

Totally agree.......

Posted by Cosi Santostefano,

SO much waste in this world ....... Packed or production date is enough. I know so many people who dispose of their product the minute it reaches the use-by date. 99% of the time it is perfectly OK... You can see BAD product through the packaging by colour, texture, and yes smell, taste..

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Sniff Test

Posted by Nick M,

I don't understand how businesses can persuade every-day consumers to move from use-by to no codes at all where there is a potential microbiological risk, this is why these items have 'use-by', not 'best before'.

I can understand if it was only organoleptics that was to be compromised, but then this is why these items invariably have a BBD. However, if it's to the point of rancidity, who is going to pay for the cost of cleaning up the vomit?!

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