Peter Whitehead, interim project manager for the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), said 15% of all food waste arose from the disposal of products that were no longer edible.
Food businesses had already done a lot on recipe and packaging changes to extend shelf-life, he told a Leatherhead Food Research conference on food safety and product integrity last month, but other options had to be explored.
“Provisional evidence has shown that there’s some scope to add extra shelf-life to some products,” said Whitehead. “We’re not looking at significant movements [in dates], but marginal increases.”
Without compromising consumer safety
WRAP’s research showed that, without compromising consumer safety, it was feasible to add shelf-life to some products.
“We can benefit from an extra day’s life, we understand that there are some barriers in terms of the perception of freshness for retailers, but we haven’t found any problems in our research.”
Food manufacturers produced nearly 4Mt of food waste a year, said Whitehead, costing them around £1.2bn and contributing to the overall 15Mt of food waste jointly produced by households, retailers and other outlets.
There are many reasons for food and packaging waste, which costs £6.9bn, but product shelf-life was one of the biggest, costing just over £1bn a year, said Whitehead.