Waitrose joins food waste reduction efforts, axes best-before dates

UK – Supermarket Waitrose has joined its UK counterparts to scrap off best-before dates from nearly 500 fresh food products in a bid to reduce food waste.

From September, the staff-owned supermarket chain will do away with the dates on packaged fruit and vegetables, including lettuce, cucumber and peppers, to encourage consumers to use their own judgment about when food has gone off.

According to Waitrose, the move is expected to cut food waste by preventing people from throwing away products that are still edible.

Marija Rompani, Director of Sustainability and Ethics at the John Lewis Partnership, which owns Waitrose, pointed out that UK households throw away 4.5m tonnes of edible food every year, meaning that all the energy and resources used in food production is wasted.

Experts at Wrap say best-before dates on fruit and vegetables are not needed, and also contribute to the climate crisis.

“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.

“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,” he said.

The government-backed Waste Resources Action Programme (Wrap) estimates that removing dates on fresh fruit and veg could save the equivalent of 7m shopping baskets of food from the bin in the UK. Wrap records that potatoes are the most wasted food in the UK, followed by bread and milk.

“Best-before dates on fruit and veg 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,” Catherine David, Director of Collaboration and Change at Wrap.

According to UK’s Food Standard Agency (FSA) use-by dates relate to the food’s safety and could result in food poisoning if ignored whilst the best-before dates relate to food quality.

Waitrose is the latest to make the move as supermarkets change tactics to reduce food waste for environmental reasons and to reduce costs for shoppers and stores.

Tesco led the way for the high street supermarkets when it got rid of best-before dates on more than 100 fresh food products in 2018.

“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."

Marija Rompani, Director of Sustainability and Ethics at the John Lewis Partnership Tweet

Last month, Marks & Spencer axed best-before dates on more than 300 fruit and vegetable products subsequent to a successful trial.

Earlier in January, Morrisons announced plans to remove use-by dates on milk and encourage consumers to use a “sniff test” instead to determine if it is OK to consume, a move the FSA cautioned against.

The regulator cited that although food can “look and smell fine” after its use-by date, it might still not be “safe to eat as it could still be contaminated”.

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