According to a report released by anti-waste charity ‘Wrap’ on the 27th of February, changing labels on milk and dairy products from ‘use by’ to ‘best before’ could help prevent £1 billion of food from being wasted each year.
There has never been clear consensus about the difference between the two terms; what is clear, however, is the confusion they create, as ‘use by’ is often understood as imperative, while ‘best before’ could be viewed as advice that does not make consuming the groceries after the date marked hazardous.
It has been reported that ‘Wrap’ is currently working with the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) on updating guidance around on-pack dates, food storage and freezing advice.
In the United States as well, organizations such as the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the two largest trade groups for the grocery industry, announced that they have adopted standardized, voluntary regulations to clear up what product date labels actually mean.Where manufacturers used to use any of 10 separate label phrases, ranging from “expires on” to “better if used by,” they’ll now be encouraged to use only two: “Use By” and “Best if Used By.”
In the past, up to 10 different label phrases were used, ranging from “expires on” to “better if used by”. Now, producers will be encouraged to use only two: “Use By” and “Best if Used By.”
The meaning of both terms will also be specifically defined. “Use By” is meant to indicate when perishable foods are no longer good. “Best if Used By” is a quality descriptor — the manufacturer’s estimation of when the food should taste best.
For years, the food industry has been encouraged to take steps in clarifying these decade-old dilemmas, both by the Department of Agriculture and a coalition of environmental groups working towards reducing greenhouse emissions.
The initial reactions have been positive, with these initial steps being praised by experts and activists alike.
“I think it’s huge. It’s just an enormous step,” said Emily Broad-Leib, the director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. “It’s still a first step — but it’s very significant.”