Tesco has today announced that it will be removing best before dates from its packaging in an effort to cut down on post-farmgate waste.
The UK's biggest retailer will remove ‘Best Before’ consumption guidance dates off nearly 70 fruit and vegetable lines.
The move is being made to help prevent perfectly edible food from being thrown away.
It follows a recent campaign by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) into causes of food waste which found that less than half of respondents understood the meaning of ‘Best Before’ dates.
However, more than 70 per cent of people polled by NFWI correctly identified the meaning of ‘Use By’ labels which have to be put on all foods where there is a safety risk if they are eaten after that date.
‘Best Before’ labels are put on foods by retailers as a quality indication to show that although they are no longer at their best they are still good to eat.
Tesco Head of Food Waste Mark Little explains: “We know some customers may be confused by the difference between ‘Best Before’ and ‘Use By’ dates on food and this can lead to perfectly edible items being thrown away before they need to be discarded.
“We have made this change to fruit and vegetable packaging as they are among the most wasted foods.
“Many customers have told us that they assess their fruit and vegetables by the look of the product rather than the ‘Best Before’ date code on the packaging.”
The Food Standards Agency states that “the best before date, sometimes shown as BBE, is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best.”
'Mountains of food waste'
In response to Tesco's announcement, Neil Parish MP Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, said it’s time for all supermarkets to follow suit and remove unnecessary markers.
“In the UK, it is estimated that 10 million tonnes of food and drink waste arises post-farmgate each year in the UK, 60% of which could have been avoided,” Mr Parish said.
“The EFRA Committee called for the removal of best before dates from fresh produce in its report into Food Waste in England [HC 429], published in 2017, so we welcome today’s news that Tesco will be doing just that.”
“It’s time for all supermarkets to follow suit and remove these unnecessary markers, and begin to reduce the UK’s mountains of food waste”.