Selling “Sell-By” Down the River

The Brits have proposed yet another innovative idea for reducing food waste: ban sell-by dates

As part of the War on Waste campaign, Britain’s Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn proposed the elimination of these “sell-by” dates while keeping true expiration dates to avoid confusion. Many consumers see the dates aimed at retailers and just throw items away. What’s more, often stores will discard goods at their sell-by date, even though they may have a week or more of use left. Benn said:  

“Too many of us are putting things in the bin simply because we’re not sure, we’re confused by the label, or we’re just playing safe.”  

photo by palila via creative commonsAccording to the Telegraph‘s subheading, this would only be with produce (not dairy or meats, I’m guessing). The whole thing is pretty exciting. Benn is a cabinet minister, which is similar to chairing a (U.S.)Senate Committee. Can you imagine a state representative, let alone a U.S. Senator, talking about food waste? Personally, I’m having a hard time picturing it.

Speaking of pictures, the great photo from the Telegraph shows a tactic I’ve never seen, having two kinds of dates on the package. And the words are understandable:”display until” and “use by.” This strikes me as a very clear way of labeling food.

Also, the BBC coverage of the issue had an update on a proposal to tax citizens more for producing more waste and reward those who create less. It ain’t gonna fly.

What’s your take on packaging wording? And if you had to choose one term–sell-by, use-by, best by, best before, enjoy before, etc., which would it be?

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