Waitrose to ditch ‘best before’ labels on food, veg, and plants

Waitrose has this morning announced it plans to remove ‘best before’ dates on more than 500 products, from citrus fruits and salad items to vegetables and indoor plants, in a bid to tackle food waste.

The retailer said the move, set to come into force in September, would invite customers to use their own judgment when deciding whether goods were still fine to eat, instead of throwing products once they are past their ‘best before’ date.

In certain instances, ‘use by’ dates would be affixed to products to indicate whether the product was still safe to eat, the supermarket said.

A growing number of retailers have announced they plan to remove ‘best before’ dates on foods, which have been blamed for contributing to mountains of waste from edible food.

Food waste is estimated to be responsible for between six and eight per cent of global greenhouse emissions.

Marija Rompani, director of sustainability and ethics at the John Lewis Parnership, said food waste was a “major issue” in the UK, with 70 per cent of food waste coming from people in their own homes.

“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,” she said . “using up existing fresh in our homes, we can also save on our weekly household shop, which is becoming an increasingly food concern concern for many.”

The label was designed to showcase food quality, not safety to eat, and as such a growing number of companies – including Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Morrisons – have opted to remove them and instead opt for ‘use by’ labels which indicate a safety risk.

Waitrose said the move would drive progress towards its goal of helping consumers reduce food waste at home by 2030.

Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at food waste charity WRAP, said removing dates on fresh fruit and veg could save the equivalent of seven million shopping baskets of food from going in the bin.

“Wasting food feeds climate change and it costs people money,” she said. “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.”

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