Forman & Son MD Lance Forman wants rid of ‘use by’ food labels

PUBLISHED: 10:57 01 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:57 01 February 2017


With all the talk in the food industry about sustainability, roughly one third of all food produced in the world is wasted. It is estimated that the value of this is almost one trillion dollars annually! And EU food labelling regulations do nothing to assist.

Here is an example of a situation we found ourselves in some years ago after an initial meeting in Italy with the senior buyer of one of the major distribution channels and a follow-up at our new plant.

I agreed a commercial deal and was excited at the prospect of monthly containers of our smoked salmon being shipped across the channel. But just before departing my office, the buyer asked me about our “use-by” dates.

“Well, in the UK, we put 14 days.”

I could see he was uncomfortable with this response, and so added a qualification: “But for export some of our clients prefer 21 days, and we are comfortable with that.”

“We need you to stamp ‘Eat within 100 days of purchase’ on the packs,” he responded.

“100 days!” I replied, thinking that he doesn’t understand salmon.

“Don’t worry. Nobody will leave it 100 days before eating. Of course not. Who could resist that long?”

“So why do you need 100 days?”

“Because if the Italian shopper sees two packs, and one says ‘Eat within 80 days’ and the other says ‘Eat within 100 days’, they will assume the 100-day pack is fresher – so that’s the one they’ll buy.”

And I am sure we have all done the same thing when we buy milk at the supermarket – we hunt for the bottle with the longest life, assuming it must be fresher.

Food labelling regulations should dispose of “use by” and “best before” dates and replace them with dates of production, with a recommended shelf life. It might mean that consumers have to do the maths and even a “sniff test”, but that’s a small price to pay to conserve our scarce resources. More from Lance

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