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LEGAL | Staff Reporter, UK

The British Sandwich Association issues warning over new FSA 'Use-by' Date guidelines

The group warned the food service industry over how they handle ingredients and products with ‘use-by’ dates following new guidance the Food Standards Agency has issued to enforcement officers.

The new guidelines are likely to particularly affect businesses providing end-of-day products to charities if they fall into the perishable food category.

Not only are enforcement officers being urged to confiscate any product that is found out of date, but the use of such products will be treated as an automatic offence, which the food deemed to be unfit.

The key issues are as follows:

Ingredients: Under current rules, a food business can freeze an ingredient for future use and, thereby, extend the ‘use-by’ date, provided it is done in advance of the date expiring. However, unless this process is fully documented in future, the original ‘use-by’ date will be taken as still valid. The documentation (which could include a label) to enable the shelf-life to be extended must show details of not only when and how the product was frozen, but must also demonstrate that it was defrosted and used within the scope of the original date. For example, if the product was frozen 2 days in advance of the Use By date, only 2 days life can be given after defrosting. 

Charities: Where perishable foods, such as sandwiches or ingredients, are given to charities at the end of their manufacturer’s shelf-life, the new guidance requires them to be relabelled with a use-by date. In order to extend the manufacturer’s date the business or charity must be able to prove scientifically that it is safe to extend the shelf-life given “a worst case scenario’. This means that testing must take account of factors such as possible temperature fluctuations in the onward supply chain.

Where the scientific evidence exists to allow a product to be relabelled with a new ‘use-by’ date, the label must include the name and address of the new Food Business Operator/Charity as well as instructions for use.

These new guidelines will make it increasingly difficult retailers and food businesses generally to pass on unsold stock to organisations such as charities.

The Association said that it is taking the matter up with the Food Standards Agency as a matter of urgency as the outcome is likely to hit the homeless and hungry as well as cause a significant increase in food waste. 

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