Experts have been arguing for some time that the 10-day cap on use-by dates for red meat should be extended.   The Food Standards Agency (FSA) produced guidance over 10 years ago which effectively imposed a 10-day cap on red meat sold in the UK.  The sector has been lobbying ever since for this to be extended on the grounds that it is far shorter than is necessary, arguing that red meat is safe to eat for up to 21 days, or even longer in some cases. Now the FSA has confirmed that it is conducting a review into the shelf life of packaged and chilled red-meat products and says it will look at all available evidence, including the examination of specific evidence for alternative use-by dates.

The FSA has requested further evidence, from industry experts, retailers and FSA members. They plan to present their findings by the end of September and it is anticipated that the FSA will produce revised guidance shortly after that. 

This could be good news for producers and retailers but is also welcomed as a means of reducing food waste.  According to Wrap, households in the UK throw away 240,000 tonnes of beef, pork and poultry products each year, much of which could still be edible.

This development comes hot on the heels of a recent decision in the English Courts which prevented Tesco from relying on expert evidence to support its case that food beyond its labelled use-by date was not unsafe to eat.  The Court agreed with Birmingham City Council which argued that the law deems that food past its use-by date is automatically unsafe.  

In reality, many foods have a period of time after their use-by date during which they are still safe to eat and pose no risk to consumers, but have been given a shorter use-by date by retailers to ensure that the products are at their absolute best in terms of look, taste and texture.  With increasing awareness of issues faced by the UK in relation to food waste, food security and access to nutritious food, is it now time for use-by dates, policies and guidance to be reviewed more widely?