Wrap has published new guidance underlining the fact that food past its Best Before can remain safe to eat for a long time after that date in a bid to reduce food waste.
Depending on the type of food and whether it has been stored correctly, food can stay safe, and perfectly good to eat for days, weeks, months or even years after its Best Before, the food waste charity said.
The guidance aims to increase the amount of food made available by businesses for redistribution by ensuring that all food items, including any approaching or past the Best Before date, are considered for redistribution.
Wrap wants for current policies that might not allow this to be reviewed and hopes its new guide will give redistribution organisations across the UK the confidence to accept much more food that has exceeded its Best Before date.
Currently, many businesses and redistribution organisations do not accept food approaching, or past its Best Before date.
Wrap director Peter Maddox said: “Food businesses are doing an incredible job ensuring that food which cannot be sold at this time moves around the supply chain to feed people and isn’t wasted.
“Our guide will help by giving clear advice on how best to redistribute food that’s exceeded the Best Before date.
“The law states that all food with a Best Before date can be sold, redistributed and consumed after that date, as long as it’s still good quality, but we appreciate that isn’t understood by all, or universally implemented. So, our aim is to make this common practice.”
The new guidance gives information on four key food categories that typically carry a Best Before date: uncut fresh produce; bread and bakery items; ambient products packaged in cans, jars and packets; and frozen foods.
It stresses the importance of visual checks of food and packaging to ensure the food is good quality.
An important addition is advice on how long after the Best Before different foods could be expected to be suitable for redistribution. The idea is that food businesses and redistribution organisations can use this as a basis when deciding how to implement the guidance.
There is no legal requirement for fresh, uncut fruit and vegetables to carry any date label. Many products don’t or are sold loose, in accordance with Wrap’s best practice guidance, however Best Before dates are still quite common on packaged fruits and vegetables.
There is no exact time for when individual fruit and vegetable products would be of sufficient quality after their Best Before date, Wrap said. This depends on the food type, its variety and seasonality, and the nature of the individual item.
It may range from one additional day for more perishable items, to two weeks for more robust crops like swedes. Most fruits and vegetables stay fresh for longer if stored in a fridge, below 5°C, and in their original packaging.