Food Standards Agency pledges review of date marking guidance

Last updated:
29 July 2016
food label with its date label magnified
On Wednesday 6 July, the Food Standards Agency partnered with Neighbourly to host a cross industry round table event entitled 'Addressing the challenges in food waste redistribution' which was attended by over 50 industry leaders. The purpose of the event was to understand how and where the FSA can initiate action, in particular in relation to date marking.

The event focused on redistribution by retailers to charities and community organisations preparing food for service users and marked the beginning of the FSA's review of date marking guidance in partnership with Defra and WRAP. The key theme was to explore whether any improvements in food safety labelling and guidance, or better education around it, might increase the volume of surplus fresh food donated and used by the voluntary sector.

The event highlighted a number of key issues, and now, as part of the review process, the FSA, WRAP and Defra will consider extending the guidance to include how food can be redistributed safely. This will cover the circumstances under which food business operators can freeze food prior to donating it to a charity partner, which was raised as a way of reducing some of the logistical barriers of redistributing products with a short shelf life. 

A recurring theme throughout the event was the impact, application and understanding of date labelling, in particular the challenges around ‘best before end’ dates. The need for a section of the guidance to address date marking for food for redistribution rather than sale was also identified.   

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy, Food Standards Agency: 'These discussions have been extremely useful in bringing to light the key barriers to food redistribution for all those involved. It has clearly highlighted the areas where the FSA can focus its efforts to ensure that as much surplus food as possible is safely redistributed. That's why we have begun the process, working with Defra and WRAP, of reviewing the date marking guidance which we aim to publish by July 2017.

Steve Haines, Head of Community Engagement, Neighbourly, comments: 'One of the overriding themes emerging from the day was that tackling food waste will require greater collaboration and collective action. Holding this event with the FSA helped strengthen relationships between retailers and manufacturers, charities and community projects, government departments and trade bodies. Working together will drive this good work forward by allowing us to address common challenges, share learnings and spread best practice.'

Andrew Parry, Special Advisor Food & Drink, WRAP comments: 'We found that over a million tonnes of avoidable food waste are produced in the manufacture and sale of food in the UK, worth £1.9bn, and that food redistribution could be increased by at least four-fold. When food surpluses cannot be avoided, redistribution to feed people is imperative and reviewing date marking and related guidance is an important element of ensuring this happens. This is part of a wider strategy to prevent waste, and maximise the use of any surpluses as part of the Courtauld Commitment 2025.'

For more information on how the Food Standards Agency is helping to tackle food waste, and to download the presentations from the event please visit our food waste page below.