Vocabulary: New rules for supermarkets

There is a glossary below to help you with difficult vocabulary related to supermarkets and food packaging. This article gives you an insight into British culture which is required for IELTS or higher level Cambridge exams.

The Problem

It is estimated that in Britain, £12 billion worth of food is binned every year by people at home because of the confusing labelling that appears on food packaging. Every day a shocking 5 million potatoes, 440 000 ready-meals, 1 million loaves of bread, 550 000 chickens and 1.3 million unopened yoghurt pots are dumped. This then ends up in landfill sites and puts a tremendous strain on local council budgets. This also means that a typical family in the UK throws away approximately £680 of food annually. Any move to reduce this amount of waste is to be welcomed at a when time almost every British family is feeling the pinch economically. The problem arises because supermarket food has two dates on the label (one for stock-control purposes and one for customer information), which misleads customers into thinking that the food is not fit to be consumed. This is due to the fact that the ‘Sell by’ or ‘Display until’ date informs supermarket staff when to take food off the shelves, but it does not mean that the food is unsafe. The labels for customers are called ‘Best before’ or ‘Use by’. Herein also lies a problem: ‘Best before’ means that the food is possibly past its best, but still ok to eat; ‘Use by’ means that after this date, the food is not fit for consumption.

The Solution

Both the ‘Sell by’ and ‘Display until’ stock-control labels are to be phased out to deter shoppers from throwing away perfectly edible food. ‘Best before’ dates will only be printed on food like biscuits, crisps, jam and tinned food to show that the product is no longer at its best but still safe to consume. ‘Use by’ labels will only be utilised if food could be dangerous to eat after that date; this applies to food such as soft cheese, fish and ready meals.


To bin sth
to throw something away in the rubbish bin
something complicated or not easy to understand
a small piece of paper/plastic attached to an object giving information about it
To dump sth
to dispose of sth (same as ‘to bin’) in a careless or hurried way
Landfill site
a place to dispose of waste material by burying it in a huge hole and covering it with soil
an estimate of money needed to do sth
Feeling the pinch
to not have enough money
(the problem) arises
occurs as a result of, comes into being, originates, emerges from
the things for sale in a business or warehouse
cause someone to have the wrong idea about sth
to consume
to eat or drink
in this matter, arising from this
To be fit for sth
to be right for sth
To be phased out
to withdraw something from use in gradual stages
sth which can be eaten
To deter
to discourage sb from doing sth
To utilise
to use

Question for comments section below

Do you think that getting rid of the “Sell by…” and “Display until…” labels will result in people throwing less food away?

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