Nearly a third of consumers bin edible food due to label confusion

New research has found many British adults end up throwing away perfectly edible produce, because they are confused by package labels.

A poll of 2,000 adults by Arla Foods found there was uncertainty across the board, with the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates, as well as storage information and even the salt, sugar and fat content leaving 85% of the nation confused.

The study revealed that whilst three-quarters (77%) of respondents check food and drink packaging before they purchase, only 15% are confident they can decipher everything on the label. This includes ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates with over a third (34%) of Brits unsure of the difference, and 11% believing them to be the same thing. This confusion means a third (34%) end up binning food if past its ‘best before’ date, while another 38% do the same once the product has passed its ‘use by’ date.

The stats emerged in a study by dairy co-operative Arla Foods, who will become the first dairy company to remove ‘use by’ dates on all branded fresh milk and replace with ‘best before’ dates only, in a bid to cut confusion and help reduce food waste.

To ensure this change helps consumers work out when their milk is still good to be used, Arla is calling on the nation to go online and vote for the label they want to see on milk bottles.

Fran Ball, director of quality, environment and safety, Arla Foods UK, said: “Our research shows that consumers are clearly confused about labelling on their food products, particularly when it comes to use by and best before dates.

“As a nation, we waste around 490 million pints of milk every year. By making some changes to the labels on our fresh milk and yogurts, we want to make people’s lives a little easier and help to cut food waste in the home. To make sure everyone can easily understand our packaging, we’re asking them to tell us which label they want to see on our bottles.

“Because we are owned by farmers, we know how much hard work goes into producing milk to Arla’s high quality standards. If changing the label gives people the confidence that their milk might still be ok for a few further days after the date on the bottle, we’ll all play a part in reducing food waste.”

This comes as research shows more than half (59%) of respondents assume milk is unsafe to drink once the date has passed, and 14% admitting they would bin it without checking to see if it could still be used.

Kate Quilton, food journalist, said: “There is no reason to throw away food or drink that is past its best before date – in most cases it’s perfectly fine to still enjoy rather than waste it. A simple check or sniff of the food product will give you a good indication as to whether the product is edible.

“Arla’s pledge to change its date labels is a great way to help simplify this message and educate consumers that ‘best before’ doesn’t always mean it’s ready to be thrown away, and that there’s some life in your food yet.”

The new ‘best before’ labels will roll-out across all of Arla’s branded fresh milk including Cravendale, BOB and Goodness, with the entire yogurt portfolio also making the switch in 2020.

Standard fresh milk can often last a few days (typically 2-3 days) beyond the date on bottle, filtered milks like Cravendale and Big Milk will often last longer.

How to make your milk last longer:

  • Put the milk into the fridge as soon as you get it home;
  • Don’t leave milk in the car for longer than necessary after you have bought it, ideally keep in a cool bag till you get home;
  • Keep your fridge at the correct temperature – between 1- 4 degree Celsius
  • Don’t leave the milk out of the fridge for longer than necessary (use a milk jug on the table rather than the milk bottle/carton);
  • Don’t drink directly from the bottle/carton;
  • Reseal the bottle/carton as quickly as possible after use.

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