Food Waste in the UK
Everyone is guilty of it; as soon as you see a product that is past its sell by date, it's straight in the bin. Each year in the UK, thousands of tonnes of food is binned because of confusion over use by dates. Yet those who are willing to overlook the labels are finding big online discounts on food past its best.
The BBC says that the UK appears to be a nation of food wasters, throwing away 8.3 million tonnes every year. That is a mountain of leftovers, enough to fill 4,700 Olympic-sized swimming pools, says the government's anti-waste arm, Wrap. Of this food, 5.3 million tonnes could have been eaten.
It is believed that most of the waste is due to confusion over food labelling. A recent survey suggests half of people do not understand the differences between them.
More than one-third of people believe that any product past its best-before date should not be eaten and 53 percent never eat fruit or vegetables after they have reached that date.
"We lead extremely busy lives and taking an interest in what's written on the date label and then understanding what that actually means is a step too far for a lot of us," says Julia Falcon from the Love Food Hate Waste Campaign.
"If people were more confident about what date labels mean they'd get round to eating more of their food rather than throwing it away."
Use-by: the key date in terms of safety. Never eat food after this date. Found on cooked meats, soft cheeses and dairy-based desserts.
Best-before: is about quality not safety. Food should be safe to eat after this date, but it might not be at its best. One exception is eggs.
Sell-by/Display-until: this information is for the retailer, not the customer. It is mainly used for stock control purposes.
Although the large majority of people aren't comfortable in eating food past its prime, for some people it's not an issue. In fact some have made a business out of selling this food.
Two years ago, Dan Cluderay quit his job as a market stall holder and set up an online supermarket specialising in products past their best-before date, in which he stocks items such as tinned and packaged groceries, biscuits, crisps and fizzy drinks.
"In the last year sales have gone up 500 percent. The reason we've done well is that we're offering value for money," says Cluderay.
His Approved Foods site is one of a small number of online retailers selling short-dated or out-of-date best-before produce.
"At one time, health inspectors would say you can't have that if it's past the best-before date and now there's a complete shift in the way people think. Perhaps it is more acceptable to drink a can of pop that's a week out of date."
You can see why some would prefer the option to buy foods past their best-before date, when something like a chocolate brownies two weeks past their best-before date are 20p instead of 89p.
Brand names are often erased, but otherwise the website looks like any other online supermarket: customers add products to a basket, pay up and a courier delivers the shopping.
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