Marks & Spencer has scrapped “best before” dates from over three hundred fresh produce items in a bid to reduce food waste.
Following a successful trial, the supermarket will remove dates from fruit and vegetable products to encourage shoppers to use their judgement to decide whether the food can still be consumed. Fruit and veg – particularly potatoes and apples – are some of the most wasted food items in UK households.
The “best before” dates will instead be replaced by a new coding system that enables the staff to check the freshness of the produce.
According to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), more than two million tonnes of food that is still edible go to waste each year in the UK.
WRAP’s guidance on “best before dates” states that many food items “remain safe and perfectly good to eat for days, weeks, months or even years” after their “best before” date.
Jamie Crummie, co-founder of food waste app Too Good To Go, said in WRAP’s report: “Date labelling has, and continues to be, a confusing issue for both businesses and consumers.
“This uncertainty could lead to food waste on a large scale across society. For example, last year we found that 720 million eggs are wasted by Brits each year because of confusion around ‘best before’ date labelling.
“‘Best before’ is simply a measure of quality rather than safety and we welcome the latest guidance from WRAP for food business and redistribution organisations on the issue.”
Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at WRAP, added: “We’re thrilled to see this move from M&S, which will reduce food waste and help tackle the climate crisis.
“Removing dates on fresh fruit and veg can save the equivalent of seven million shopping baskets of food being binned in our homes.
“We urge more supermarkets to get ahead on food waste by axing date labels from fresh produce, allowing people to use their own judgement.”
M&S is committed to halving food waste by 2030 as part of its sustainability roadmap and aims to have all edible surplus redistributed by 2025.
Andrew Clappen, director of food technology at M&S, said: “We’re determined to tackle food waste – our teams and suppliers work hard to deliver fresh, delicious, responsibly-sourced produce at great value, and we need to do all we can to make sure none of it gets thrown away.
“To do that, we need to be innovative and ambitious – removing ‘best before’ dates where safe to do so, trialling new ways to sell our products, and galvanising our customers to get creative with leftovers and embrace change.”