Michael Wight, head of food safety policy at the Food Standards Agency (FSA), responds to our Reporting In column in the 8 January issue.

Dear Sir,

Jim Winship accuses the FSA of being "uncharitable" in his Reporting In column (British Baker 8 January). I think this is unfair. Our guidance, which isn’t new, was reissued to all local authorities in November last year to clarify enforcement powers available to them with regard to any breaches they may discover involving ’use-by’ dates.

As Jim Winship states ‘use-by’ dates are not required if the product is made on the premises and intended for sale on that day (all other prepacked sandwiches must have a ‘use-by’ date).

Nevertheless, ‘use-by’ dates, which are set by food businesses, exist to protect consumers from foods which are highly perishable from a microbiological perspective. If foods are being passed to charities, then it is absolutely reasonable that the charity knows the safe date by which that product may be consumed. In fact, it’s a legal requirement and helps keep people safe.

We understand that food waste is a really important issue and something none of us like to see. Food businesses attempts to assist charities in this area are to be applauded but there needs to be a balance in their support to charities and ensuring that recipients of that help are protected from any potential illness.