Taking a closer look at labels
Retailers and brands are helping you get more out of the food you buy and waste less
We all love our favourite brands that we buy week in week out. But although the pack might look the same, you might be surprised to learn that food retailers and manufacturers are always reviewing the guidance they provide on their products, to ensure the food is at its best for longer, ready for us to eat.
With the publication of new research from WRAP, Love Food Hate Waste is encouraging everyone to love looking at our food labels to ensure we're not missing a trick when it comes to storing food in the right way, taking the option to freeze it for later or discovering new ways to use it up.
Around half of us find date labels confusing but most of us find it easier to understand the important date ('use by') when there is no 'display until' next to it. The research shows that, in response, the food industry has dramatically cut the use of 'display until' dates so that less than a third of all products now carry one. Putting one date on the pack instead of two, reduces the potential for us to get confused, and makes the important date much clearer. Retailers are also finding ways to make the dates easier to read, for example, the dates on Sainsbury's milk and fresh fruit & vegetables are now much larger than before.
Have you ever been unsure whether you could eat cheddar cheese after the date on the pack? Perhaps this is because until last year, a quarter of packs carried a 'use by' date with the rest carrying a 'best before' date. How confusing! Now things are much simpler with almost all (97%) packs carrying a 'best before' date. That means it's safe to eat after the date, but might not be at its best in terms of quality innocent orange juice also used to have a 'use by' date on their packs, but now have a 'best before' date. £80 million of fruit juices and smoothies are thrown away every year because they're 'not used in time' so the new labelling tells innocent's customers that they can drink the product quite safely after the date on the label.
96% of all products surveyed in the research carried storage guidance. Storing food in the right way helps keep it fresh and tasty for longer and means less of the food we buy gets wasted. Most packs now carry storage information on the front of the pack, rather than the back, making it even easier to spot.
Why not take a few moments to check that you're keeping your food in the right place?
- Most fruit keep for longer in the fridge, except bananas and pineapples.
- Most vegetables keep for longer in the fridge, except onions and potatoes – keep them in a cool, dark place.
- Bread keeps best in a cool, dark place such as the bread bin or a store cupboard – never the fridge.
And it's not just labels that are changing, there are great examples of more re-closable packs for things like cheese and also a wider range of pack sizes to help you buy the right amount. 47% of all the packaged products surveyed were re-closable in some way allowing the food to be kept at its best for longer.
- The number of cheese packs in re-closable packaging increased by 35% between 2009 and 2011.
- 73% of rice packs were re-closable in 2011, compared to 44% in the 2009 sample.
- 17% of fresh chicken breast packs were re-closable in 2011, compared to only 5% in 2009.
If your pack doesn't have a re-closable feature, use a bag clip or put the opened pack into an air-tight container.