Scrapping use by dates could save consumers £600m per year, new draft guidance suggests

"Overly cautious" and "restrictive" use by dates on food should be scrapped according to new draft Government guidance, and instead should be replaced with best before dates.

Doing so could save consumers £600 million per year and help to reduce the 7.3 million tons of food thrown away in the UK each year, it has been suggested.

New draft guidelines, written by the Food Standards Agency, Defra Labelling and the sustainability charity Wrap, say that shops should remove use by dates from products unless there is a risk of food poisoning, instead just stating a best before.

The guidance also calls on supermarkets to end the use of confusing multiple dates such as "display until" or "sell by" dates and to extend the time the shopper has between opening the food and eating it, warning many of the "consume by" or "consume within" dates may be "overly cautious".

Changing the date labels could reduce food waste by 200,000 tons. Credit: ITV News

It is thought that food businesses use conservative dates on how long food can be kept because they risk legal action or loss of custom if a consumer gets ill or the food is below the standard they expect, experts say.

The British Retail Consortium says labelling is not the issue, it is people's misunderstanding. Credit: ITV News

The guidance also suggests that increasing the life of perishable foods by just one day could help prevent 200,000 tons of food waste each year, and save consumers £600 million.

Richard Swannell of Wrap, estimates that almost three millions tons of food which could have been eaten is thrown away by households each year.

Richard Swannell of Wrap says food that could be eaten is thrown away. Credit: ITV News

He continued that changes to date labelling could reduce the amount by 350,000 tons each year.

However, the British Retail Consortium hit back at the draft guidelines, saying current labelling is not the problem, arguing instead that people should know how to better understand them and what the different dates mean.

The guidelines are under consultation until August.