Sell-by labels should be expired

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Some of us sniff, some prod, while others will take a leap of faith and will merrily tuck into ‘out of date’ food.

But these larder mavericks are increasingly becoming a rare breed it seems as we are regularly told we are a nation of wasters. The statistics show that, each year, the average family bungs away food worth £700 and could have eaten an estimated £470 of it.

One of the most ‘wasted’ foods are potatoes, with nearly half of the edible fresh spuds bought each day ending up in the pedal bin along with the tea bags and the empty Flora pot.

In all, we sling £230m worth of spuds each year, just because they are past the ‘best before’ dates on the packaging.

These uncomfortable figures come from Love Food Hate Waste, an organisation which says we can halve food waste by 2025. As one who has disregarded ‘best before’ and ‘sell by dates’ for all of his adult life, I agree with all efforts to reduce food waste in this country. I hate waste and I earnestly urge my kids to think of all the starving children in the world whenever they turn their noses up at anything that is served with green stuff. I will hang onto food until it is on its last legs.

This is largely why I applauded the decision by the Co-Op in the East of England to sell a selection of food for 10p once its sell-by date has expired.

I don’t get the snobbery around ‘out of date’ foods, especially when the cost of filling up a trolley has shot up in recent months. Like an increasing number of shoppers, the first place I head for when entering a supermarket is the reduced items shelves and if it hangs about in my fridge for a day or two longer, then where is the harm in that? Having said that, my lack of respect for the food industry’s approach to dating produce does not extend to my kids – while they are expected to clear their plates, they are yet to develop their old man’s cast- iron stomach but give them time.

What is clear is that food producers, retailers and industry regulators need to do more to encourage consumers to hang onto their food for longer. If nothing else, it would put an end to folk sniffing the contents of their fridge.