Up-to-date guidance

‘Sell by’ has past its sell-by date and ‘display until’ will no longer be displayed, but ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ are here to stay. Barbara Gallani explains the importance of Defra’s new guidance on food and drinks labelling

Shoppers’ confusion over date labelling on food and drink products is at the origin of a very common daily dilemma that is being played out in kitchens nationwide, with many erring on the side of caution and throwing away considerable amounts of still-edible food. The recent publication of guidance on such matters from Defra for businesses on the usage of date marks on food and drink products will be an additional tool for manufacturers to help shoppers in their fight against food waste. Under the guidance, Defra has stated that ‘sell-by’ and ‘display-until’ labels used for stock rotation should be removed and only ‘best-before’ or ‘use-by’ dates should be used. However, there is still a great deal of work to do to address consumer understanding around date labels.

Defra’s guidance aims to help businesses decide whether to label their food products with either a ‘best-before’ or a ‘useby’ date. Either one or the other of these dates is required by law, and the choice is a technical decision by the food manufacturer. The guidance acts principally as a decision tree asking a series of important questions around the production of a food product from a microbiological perspective.