'Use by' dates on food and drink such as milk and yogurt could be downgraded to 'best before' dates to prevent products being needlessly thrown out, under plans put forward by a charity.

While 'use by' dates mean you should chuck food away after the stated date, 'best before' dates mean food is usually still OK to eat after this date – so you don't automatically need to throw it away.

Anti-waste charity Wrap today released a report in which it claims changes to products and labelling could help prevent £1 billion of food from being wasted each year, and it's currently working with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on updating guidance around on-pack dates, food storage and freezing advice.

Among the report's key suggestions are: "Reviewing the choice of date mark on products that currently carry a 'use by' date and are wasted in high volumes (for example many yogurts and fresh milk), to establish whether this is justified from a food safety perspective.

"If not, moving to a 'best before' could help reduce food waste at home, and also in the supply chain."

Responding to the report, FSA chair Heather Hancock confirmed the agency was "working closely" with Wrap on updating food guidance and added: "I believe it is important that information available on-pack not only helps to ensure people have safe food, but that it makes it as easy as possible for them to manage and store their food to ensure less is wasted."

Our free food-saving memo can be stuck on your fridge as a reminder to check the state of your food before you bin it.

Martin Lewis
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