Spoil alert: Waitrose to ditch “best before” dates on fresh fruits and vegetables to curb food waste
01 Aug 2022 --- UK supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners will remove “best before” dates on nearly 500 fresh products, including root vegetables, fruits such as grapes, citrus and apples.
The removal of this label is intended to reduce the volume of food waste occurring across British households by inviting customers to use their judgment when assessing spoilage.
“Food waste continues to be a major issue and in the UK alone, 70% of all food wasted is by people in their own homes,” comments Marija Rompani, director of sustainability and ethics, John Lewis Partnership.
UK households throw away 4.5 million metric tons of edible food every year. This means that all the energy and resources used in that food production is wasted, warns Rompani.
“By removing best before dates from our products, we want our customers to use their own judgment to decide whether a product is good to eat or not, which in turn, will increase its chances of being eaten and not becoming waste,” says Rompani.
“By using up existing fresh food in our homes, we can also save on our weekly household food shop, which is becoming an increasingly pressing concern for many.”
Moves to alleviate a historic food crisis
Food waste is an endemic issue that continues to add pressure on already acutely strained supply chains across the globe, hard hit by a trifecta of ballooning inflation, blazing heatwaves and the Russia-Ukraine war.
In the UK last month, grocery shoppers were shocked to discover security tagging on cheese, butter and other packaged foods as the skyrocketing cost of produce is taking product prices to record highs.
“Wasting food feeds climate change and it costs people money,” stresses Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at WRAP. “Best Before dates on fruit and vegetables are unnecessary and create food waste because they get in the way of people using their judgment when food is still good to eat.”
“We are absolutely delighted by this move from Waitrose which, will help stop good food ending up in the bin. We estimate that removing dates on fresh fruit and vegetables could save the equivalent of 7 million shopping baskets of food from the bin, which is huge,” she says.
“There is loads more that we can do to tackle food waste together – for fresh produce it’s also really important to store it in the fridge and knock the temperature down to below 5°C. WRAP found that apples last more than two months longer when refrigerated, and broccoli two weeks longer.”
Trust your own judgment
In the UK, “best before” dates are designed to showcase food quality for customers rather than safety. However, Waitrose highlights there shouldn’t be any problems with consuming foods after this date has passed.
“Use by” dates will still be in place across the supermarket’s products for safety. “Eating food after its ‘use by’ date (unless it has been frozen on or before its use by date) could result in food poisoning,” states the company.
Waitrose’s packaged fresh products that will be removing “best before” dates include lettuce, cucumber, peppers, potted herbs, salad onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, celery, potatoes, root vegetables, brassica vegetables, leeks, melons, pineapples, apples, pears, citruses, plums, grapes and exotic fruits.
M&S similarly targeted food waste by removing its best before dates across 300 fruit and vegetable products last month.
Edited by Benjamin Ferrer
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