This leads to consumable food being discarded, and Arla Foods UK is changing its labelling on milk and yogurt products to try and better inform consumers.
The poll of 2,000 adults by Arla Foods found there was uncertainty across the board, with the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates, as well as storage information and even the salt, sugar and fat content leaving 85% of the nation confused.
The study revealed that 77% of respondents check food and drink packaging before they purchase, but only 15% are confident they can decipher everything on the label. This includes ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates with 34% of Brits unsure of the difference, and 11% believing them to be the same thing. This means a third of people end up throwing away food if past its ‘best before’ date, while another 38% do the same once the product has passed its ‘use by’ date.
In response, Arla Foods said it will become the first dairy company to remove ‘use by’ dates on all branded fresh milk and replace with ‘best before’ dates only, in a bid to cut confusion and help reduce food waste.
Fran Ball, director of quality, environment and safety at Arla Foods UK, said, “Our research shows that consumers are clearly confused about labelling on their food products, particularly when it comes to use by and best before dates.
“As a nation, we waste around 490m pints of milk every year. By making some changes to the labels on our fresh milk and yogurts, we want to make people’s lives a little easier and help to cut food waste in the home. To make sure everyone can easily understand our packaging, we’re asking them to tell us which label they want to see on our bottles.
“If changing the label gives people the confidence that their milk might still be ok for a few further days after the date on the bottle, we’ll all play a part in reducing food waste.”
The stats appear to vary according to the product. Research shows 59% of respondents assume milk is unsafe to drink once the date has passed, and 14% say they would discard it without checking to see if it could still be used.
However, with fruit and veg, 66% say they would consume once the date has passed. Also, likely to stay in the cupboard past its ‘best before’ date was tinned food (70%), sweets and chocolate (72%) and dried products such as nuts and cereal (71%).
The new ‘best before’ labels will roll-out across all of Arla’s branded fresh milk including Cravendale, BOB and Goodness, with the entire yogurt portfolio also making the switch in 2020.
Arla said standard fresh milk can often last a few days (typically 2-3 days) beyond the date on bottle, filtered milks like Cravendale and Big Milk will often last longer.