WRAP publishes guide to ‘best before’ dates

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
WRAP stresses that many foods can safely be eaten beyond their best before dates

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has today (23 April) published new guidance on food best before dates for businesses, redistribution organisations, and charities.

The guide, which updates an existing document, stresses that many foods can be safely eaten beyond their best before dates.

It provides new information about four food categories: uncut fresh produce, bread and bakery, ambient products packaged in cans, jars, and packets, and frozen foods.

For fresh produce, WRAP suggests there is no exact time period after a best before date, if provided, when food should no longer be eaten or redistributed, as this depends on the particular item.

The guide notes that most fruits and vegetables stay fresh for longer if stored in a fridge below 5°C, in their original packaging.

WRAP suggests bread and bakery products remain good to eat beyond a best before date for between two days for bread and up to a week for other packaged bakery items.

Long-life bread products, such as some pita breads, can be eaten well beyond the best before date - a month or more.

WRAP suggests most ambient foods can be eaten well beyond their best before dates.

Crisps can usually be consumed up to a month past the date; biscuits and cereals can last up to six; canned meat and soup, confectionery, drinks, and pasta sauces can be eaten up to a year after the best before date; dried pasta can last three years; and jams may last between three and five years.

Meanwhile frozen food can be safely eaten for months beyond the best before date if it is stored well.

WRAP advises taking note of the star rating on frozen foods, which indicates how well the product keeps in the freezer.

Across all food categories, the guidance suggests visually checking food to determine whether it is still good to eat.

With its guide, WRAP aims to reduce food waste by businesses and increase the amount of food made available by businesses for redistribution.

It urges businesses to make sure that all food items, including any approaching or past their best before dates, are considered for redistribution, and to review any policies that may not allow this.

WRAP hopes its guide will also encourage redistribution organisations and charities across the UK to accept more quality food past the best before date in the confidence that it is still good to eat.

Peter Maddox, director at WRAP, said: “Food businesses are doing an incredible job ensuring that food which cannot be sold at this time moves around the supply chain to feed people, and isn’t wasted.

“Our guide will help by giving clear advice on how best to redistribute food that’s exceeded the best before date.

“The law states that all food with a best before date can be sold, redistributed and consumed after that date, as long as it’s still good quality, but we appreciate that isn’t understood by all or universally implemented.

“So, our aim is to make this common practice.”

The guide is aimed at the supply chain, but WRAP is also eager to help people at home understand the date labels on their food.

Maddox added: “We estimate that over a typical year, around half a billion pounds’ worth of food is likely to be thrown away from homes linked to a best before date; that’s 180,000 tonnes.

“Knowing the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ is one of the biggest ways to stop food waste in the home.

“A best before date is only a quality guide and you can use your judgement as to whether it’s still good to eat.

“Use by is the safety mark and there to protect us. No food should be sold, redistributed, or eaten after the use by.”

WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign aims at educating people at home about date labels and food waste.

Its A-Z storage guide outlines the best way to keep different food items fresh for longer.

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