There has been much media coverage suggesting that annually in the UK, 2 million tonnes of food waste could be prevented, in 3 ways:
- lengthening the ‘open life’ or ‘use within’ (date between opening the container and expiry);
- changing the type of date mark (‘use by’ to ‘best before’);
- and prolonging the ‘closed life’ (date between purchase and expiry).
The report (WRAP Retail survey, 2015) highlights the ‘open life’ for milk, cooked chicken and cooking sauces has become shorter over the last 6 years. These are all products, which: “could pose a food safety risk once opened and therefore guidance on how to store such products and for how long is critical”.
Indeed these are precisely the foods that are the most likely to cause concern, and therefore be thrown away. This was found by Lieb et al (2016) . “Pasteurised milk and deli meats were thrown away ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’ [past their date] by 59% and 61% of consumers, respectively”.
The suggestion to reduce food waste and lengthen the open life is a good one, but do we remember when we opened the packet? What if it was not you who opened it? Can we really trust our noses when salmonella, e-coli and listeria are all odourless?
Indeed, the BBC One Show (02/03/17) highlighted the ‘sniff test’ for milk is sometimes not a reliable indication of food safety!
The WRAP report goes on to suggest that manufacturers and retailers have a role to play in helping consumers “Can technological innovations be used to better monitor and manage product life?”
One such innovation, is provided by UWI Technology. Pete Higgins, Founder and CEO explains: “The UWI Label is a simple colour time indicator, which shows at a glance if a product is still safe to consume. It progressively changes from green to red, set to the precise ‘open life’ period for each product. Applied to the outside of the pack, once it turns red, you know the product is no longer safe to consume. It is activated automatically when the container is opened for the first time, and can’t be stopped, leaving no room for human error”.