The UK government should use Brexit as an opportunity to allow manufacturers of very short shelf-life products to start using ‘use by end of’ date labels again.
That is the message from the British Sandwich and Food to Go Association (BSA) in an open letter to Brexit secretary David Davis sent to all MPs this week.
UK sandwich suppliers used to be able to put ‘use by end of’ labels on their products, but the practice was outlawed by the EU when the Food Information Regulation package came in. Ever since, sandwich makers have had to put labels saying ‘use by’ on their products, which typically have a shelf life of no more than two days.
“We would welcome the flexibility to return to this as we believe it is both clearer to consumers and to retailers,” the letter by BSA director Jim Winship says. “This simple change would have a significant impact on food wastage at the end of shelf-life.
Date labelling was a clear example of how UK industry had been hampered by legislation imposed “due to lack of full understanding of the markets by EU legislators,” the letter to Davis adds.
“The UK leads by some way as a European nation in the food to go sector. As other EU markets are less well developed, this can lead to ‘one size fits all’ legislation being created that does not fit with the developing UK market.”
Training programme for migrant labour
The BSA also warns the UK sandwich industry could face a labour shortage post-Brexit if the necessary policies aren’t in place. The sandwich and food to go sectors are heavily reliant on manual labour – far more so than other food sectors – and employers are already finding it hard to recruit staff, it says.
A potential points-based immigration system would exacerbate matters, as it would penalise unskilled labour needed by the food to go industry. Instead, the BSA is proposing the creation of a training programme for migrant workers.
“Our alternative suggestion is that the UK creates a ‘training’ programme which would allow workers into the UK on a six or 12 month visa provided that they are receiving training,” the BSA letter says. “The visa might be specific to an employer, so that the individual is bound to that employer for the period. In return, our industries would be prepared to put together a structured training programme for them.”