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This is why food labelling is key to reducing food waste – and climate change

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Approved Food campaigns to reduce food waste.

Approved Food, the UK’s largest online retailer of surplus food and drink, has welcomed moves to scrap best before dates on some food packaging.

In its latest report, released on November 5, the waste prevention body WRAP is urging retailers to implement best practice on food labelling to help reduce the two million tonnes of food discarded each year by UK households.

WRAP’s latest findings reveal that around 20% of all food we buy is thrown away, amounting to £810 a year for the average family.

Guidance and best practice on labelling includes both regulatory requirements and advice to help households reduce waste, such as storage and freezing tips. One recommendation includes removing the best before date on bags of potatoes.

Approved Food has campaigned for a decade for better education on food labelling, particularly around best before dates, which it says are misleading and lead to perfectly good food being thrown away. Tinned, dried or vacuum-packed food is often perfectly safe to eat for months or even years after the best before date on the label.

This, says MD Andy Needham, leads to food being wasted unnecessarily, which in turn contributes to the production of greenhouse gases. If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest producer of GHGs behind China and the US.

He said: “Food waste in the UK is an even greater cause of global warming than plastic . One way that individuals can reduce their carbon footprint and help protect the environment is to throw away less food – especially when it is still perfectly good to eat.
“Changes to the way that food is labelled is absolutely key to creating a better understanding of what’s still safe to eat. There is a huge difference between ‘use by’ dates on fresh produce and ‘best before’ on your store-cupboard staples. While you should not consume products past their ‘use by’ date, ‘best before’ is arbitrary.

“If canned goods, for example, have passed their best before date, use your common sense – if it smells, looks and tastes fine then don’t throw it away!

“The food you take out of your cupboard and throw into the bin is doing serious harm to the planet, but once food is thrown away then it rots, and as it breaks down it emits methane – far more harmful in the short-term to our climate than carbon dioxide.”

Brand ambassador Jonathan Straight added: “We need to better understand our confusing labelling system as well as using our common sense. Use by dates are one thing but otherwise we should be able to rely on our senses to tell us whether food is okay to eat.

“It’s not just the food itself that is wasted. When you think of the energy that went into its manufacture, the amount of water used and the fuel that was needed to transport it, it’s simply not acceptable to continue like this when our planet’s resources are becoming depleted and people are going hungry.”

The Trussell Trust recently launched a Five Weeks Is Too Long campaign, calling for the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments to be scrapped. The trust says it is forcing families into food poverty, with the number of people turning to food banks for support up by 13%.

Approved Food regularly donates goods to local food banks and supports initiatives such as Huddersfield Street Kitchen.

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