New advice to help food businesses decide between 'use-by' and 'best-before' dates is being drawn up by the FSA.

Draft guidance at early consultation includes a visual decision tree posing questions about the perishability and chemical composition of food to help select the best option.

Critics of the present system say too many producers are over-cautious and use 'use-by' dates when 'best before' would suffice, resulting in a lot of food being thrown away unnecessarily. Proposed guidance will include definitions for 'perishable' and 'unsafe' food, as well as for 'long shelf life', 'short period' and 'spoilage'.

"The current draft needs refining but the idea of a decision tree is a good one," said Clare Cheney, PTF director general.