How important are best-before and use-by dates? Angela Hartnett, Tamal Ray, Ruby Tandoh and Thomasina Miers explain what they bin and what they keep
• Buying out-of-date food online: is it worth it?
• Out-of-date food: tell us your stories
It’s a wonder the human race managed to survive before the advent of a date sticker telling us when we should be eating certain foods by, but survive we did. Mostly we sniffed our food and decided whether to eat it or not. These days, around half of us go by the date label printed on the packaging, and will often throw away food that is safe to eat. According to the Waste Resources Action Programme (Wrap), an organisation that promotes sustainability, we throw away 4.2m tonnes of food every year in the UK, which, aside from the financial costs, has a huge impact on the environment.
We buy too much, or we cook too much, or we forget to store leftovers properly. But the biggest reason for throwing food away is because we don’t use it in time, and, in many cases, we simply look at the date on the packet rather than the contents – and that date might be OK to ignore. In February, a supermarket opened in Denmark that only sells food past its sell-by date. In the UK, online retailer Approved Food sells “short-dated” goods – defined as approaching or past their best-before date.