Sulphurous eggs, skunk-like beer, vinegary juice and rancid oats. Just some of the unpleasant odours that foods emit when they're going off. That's if you didn't already throw them away a long time ago, following the advice of the 'best before' label.
So much noise surrounds food labelling in the UK that it's easy to lose sight of the common sense stuff, namely the sniff test, allowing our nostrils to detect when food has gone off, rather than obeying the manufacturer's 'best before' dates.
With that in mind the UK food waste initiative Too Good To Go is looking to reduce food that goes in the bin unnecessarily by making food labelling simpler with their 'Nose Sense' campaign. They have unveiled a new series of 'Smell-By' labels – scratch-and-sniff stickers to help consumers let their nose dictate if their food is 'Too Good To Go', or if it is actually inedible.
By working with a 's’mellier' they have come up with labels for four pantry staples, which are still good to eat after the 'best before' date has passed. This should help prevent the £625million of eggs, orange juice, beer and oats that are avoidably wasted in the UK each year.
See the world’s first professional s’mellier, Dariush Alavi, in action:
Interestingly, sniffing food seems to be a dying art. While three quarters of 46-54-year-olds trust their nostrils on when to bin food, less than half of 16-24-year-olds are guided by smells. The majority of Brits are also blindly obedient when it comes to labels, with research showing that a third rely solely on 'best before' labels when deciding whether their food has gone bad or not.
These scratch-and-sniff sticker labels are the start of a process of educating consumers by training them to know exactly what food would smell like if it was really no longer okay to eat and ultimately to use their common sense in reducing unnecessary food waste.
While the stickers put a fun spin on highlighting food waste, there does remain a fundamental problem with consumer confusion over food labelling.
What do food labels mean?
What do 'Best Before' Labels mean in the UK?
Most importantly, best before dates are about food quality (BBE).
If a best before date is exceeded on a food product it means that its flavour and texture might not be as good, crisp, soft, sweet or strong as when you first bought it, but it is still edible. It's simply past its best.
What do 'Use By' Labels mean in the UK?
Use by dates are about food safety.
'Use by' labels deal with food safety and indicate foods that can be eaten until the 'use by' date but not after, when they could be unsafe. Use by labels are applied to products with a short shelf life, like fresh meat products or ready-to-eat salad.