Could It Be Time To Scrap Australia’s ‘Best Before’ Labels?

Removing 'best before' labels will curb food wastage by at least 50,000 tonnes a year.

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As major UK supermarkets move to scrap ‘best before’ dates on a variety of fresh fruit products, could it be time that Australia follows suit?

A new article in The Conversation reckons so, with the amount of food waste being produced by Australians estimated to be around 300kg per person each year — and about 70 percent of that waste still being edible. And look, we’re wary of blindly idolising the UK at the best of times, but in this case, experts say they’re on the right track.

Australia’s most wasted foods are apparently apples, bananas, potatoes, cucumbers, and broccoli; and the article notes that removing ‘best before’ labels from these items will in itself reduce food waste by 50,000 tonnes a year.

And while getting rid of ‘best before” labels will spark obvious concerns about food safety, experts flag they really only give consumers a rough indicator of when you should aim to eat the product by.

“A ‘best before’ date means the food is still safe to eat after the date as long as it is not damaged, deteriorated, or perished,” the NSW Food Authority stressed on their website. “You can expect these foods to retain their colour, taste, texture, and flavour as long as they are stored correctly.”

On the other hand, the existence of ‘use by’ labels, which do have food safety implications, would not be threatened.

Also of note is that ‘best before’ tags tend to apply to fresh produce kept in plastic items, whereas storing things differently — for example, putting your onions in a paper bag — can make them last for way longer.

And luckily, we already have an inbuilt sensory system that helps us figure out whether or not food is safe to eat. “We can feel, see, sniff, and taste the state of fruits, vegetables and other products,” the article states. “Trust (and train) your instincts.” Sniff sniff!