UK – Ocado, an online grocer headquartered in the UK,  is to scrap ‘best before’ labels on some fruit and vegetables as a way of eradicating food waste.

Ocado will launch the initiative on Tuesday for items in its fresh produce range, including apples, pears and citrus fruits.

The move is expected to save thousands of tons of edible food from being needlessly thrown away, by allowing customers to use their own judgment as to when something is still good to eat.

“We have removed the best before date – an indicator of freshness – from a number of our Ocado Own Range produce. This is to help fight food waste and to encourage our customers to make their own decision as to when a food item is past its best,” said the company’s spokesman.

The retailer has also signed up to The Waste And Resources Action Programme (WRAP) Courtauld Commitment 2025, a voluntary agreement to cut waste in the grocery sector.

In the previous year, the MoS carried out a study that discovered households were throwing away £900 million (US$ 982,260,000) of perfectly good food each year because supermarkets had misleading best before labels on fruit, vegetables and dairy products.

A government-backed report published in 2017 had called on supermarkets to remove these labels ‘to encourage consumers to use their judgment on when to eat fresh produce, avoiding waste’.

“For uncut fresh produce, apply “best before” only where this is judged to be necessary/useful in order to help consumers eat – rather than waste – the product. For all other cases, do not apply a date code,” read the report.

Exceptions were made for products that have a short shelf life, such as strawberries, as a date can ensure they are eaten before going off, according to Mail Online.

The MoS investigation covering Britain’s ten largest supermarket chains found that nearly everyone was failing to follow official guidelines on labelling.

Food retailers have also been advised since 2019 that milk, yogurt and other dairy products can now show a ‘best before’ label rather than a ‘use by’ label, unless there is a food safety risk.

This advice is crucial since ‘best before’ refers to the quality of food, meaning it is still safe to eat when past its best. ‘Use by’ refers to the safety of food, indicating it should not be eaten after that date.

In January, Morrisons became the first supermarket to scrap ‘use by’ labels on milk in favour of ‘best before’.

WRAP urges other retailers to scrap date labels

Recent statistics show Ocado had the lowest food waste in the industry last year, at 0.04 per cent. Other supermarkets reported waste levels between two and four per cent.

To mark the second annual Food Waste Action Week, Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a registered UK charity that advocates for waste recycling for more sustainable processes, has called on all large supermarkets and retailers to go further in removing unnecessary date labels.

WRAP’s recent study revealed that selling fresh produce loose and removing date labels would prevent 14 million shopping baskets of food from being wasted and remove the need for plastic that could fill 1,100 refuse lorries.

“WRAP research showed that getting rid of best before dates on fresh fruit and veg can help reduce the amount of food we throw away from our homes by a staggering 50,000 tons a year, so we fully support Ocado’s move.

“We’re delighted to have worked with them to take this important step and are looking forward to more supermarkets joining them and binning best before dates on fresh uncut produce,” said Marcus Gover, Chief Executive, WRAP.

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