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Extend Shelf Life to Cut Waste

05 March 2015

UK - If product life across a range of foods was increased by a day it could prevent around 250,000 tonnes of food waste each year, in households and in the supply chain as it would give consumers longer to eat the food they buy.

A new report, Reducing food waste by extending product life by the campaigning group WRAP, has assessed the amount of product life available to consumers on shelf, and reviewed how product life codes such as ‘Use-by’ and ‘Best-before’ dates are currently set by retailers, brands and food manufacturers.

The study examined a range of popular foods where there are typically relatively high levels of waste.

It estimates the potential overall tonnage and financial savings by scaling-up data from these products to all food groceries.

The report identified opportunities to make changes throughout the supply chain and pass on more product life to consumers.

Dr. Richard Swannell, Director of Sustainable Food Systems at WRAP said: “The findings in our report are a real opportunity for industry.

“By implementing these simple recommendations, food manufacturers and retailers can make a big difference in the battle against food waste, without even having to change products and packaging.

“We estimate that shoppers could save upwards of £500 million, and businesses could save £100 million in waste prevention alone.

“We have a fantastic opportunity to take action here – we’ve identified the business case based on savings in the true cost of waste and the potential for increased sales from better availability.

“Today’s report is part of our continuing work to reduce food waste and we’re keen to work with industry on how best to act on this information.”

The report sets out five recommendations, which show how and where adjustments in the supply chain (manufacture, logistics and retail) could increase product life for the consumer, and highlights opportunities to challenge how product life is currently set, and ‘Open life’ determined.

WRAP says the recommendations do not compromise product safety or quality in any way, and do not require any changes to existing packaging or product formulations.

The report has the backing of the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Dr Linden Jack, Head of Food Hygiene Policy Branch at the FSA, said: “We welcome these recommendations and believe they offer sensible proposals which could enable the life of a product to be extended without compromising food safety.

“The FSA’s number one priority is food safety and use by dates in particular have an important role to play in protecting consumers. However we recognise more needs to be done to help us all reduce the amount of food wasted every year in the UK.”

WRAP, the organisation that first highlighted the issue of food waste in 2007, will now work with industry to take forward these recommendations and explore other options to build upon the findings of the report.

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