22 May 2018 --- UK retailer Tesco is scrapping “Best Before” consumption guidance dates from almost 70 fruit and vegetable lines in its latest move to help reduce food waste. The move is being made to help prevent perfectly edible food from being thrown away and is part of the supermarkets ongoing efforts to cut waste. It follows a recent campaign by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) into causes of food waste which found that less than half of respondents understood the meaning of “Best Before” dates.
However, more than 70 percent of people polled by NFWI correctly identified the meaning of “Use By” labels which have to be put on all foods where there is a safety risk if they are eaten after that date.
Whereas “Best Before” labels are put on foods by retailers as a quality indication to show that although they are no longer at their best they are still good to eat.
The difference between the two can cause confusion among consumers.
“We know some customers may be confused by the difference between ‘Best Before’ and ‘Use By’ dates on food and this can lead to perfectly edible items being thrown away before they need to be discarded,” says Mark Little, Head of Food Waste at Tesco.
“We have made this change to fruit and vegetable packaging as they are among the most wasted foods.”
“Many customers have told us that they assess their fruit and vegetables by the look of the product rather than the ‘Best Before’ date code on the packaging.”
The Food Standards Agency states that “the best before date, sometimes shown as BBE, is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best.”
The fruit and vegetables include popular lines such as apples, potatoes, tomatoes, lemons and other citrus fruit and onions.
David Moon is Head of Business Collaboration at WRAP, which works with governments, businesses and communities to deliver practical solutions to improve resource efficiency.
“Through the Courtauld Commitment 2025, WRAP is working with the food & drink sector to review all the evidence on date labeling for fresh produce and agree best practice,” he said.
“This change by Tesco provides a good opportunity to learn about the customer response, and we anticipate Tesco will share their findings. With all fresh produce, appropriate storage including the use of the refrigerator is essential in giving the customer more time to use their food, so clarity of storage advice on pack and in-store will be vital.”
Globally, the issue of food waste has been in the spotlight for the last few years, gaining momentum as one of the key concerns of modern society. Retailers like Tesco have been working on a range of initiatives to help combat the problem.
Food waste is most prominent in the home, with consumers making up the largest contingent, but waste happens all the way through the supply chain. It’s very often the case, particularly in households, that due to the perishable nature of fresh produce, fruit and vegetables are the most common items to be discarded.
FoodIngredientsFirst recently published a special report delving into the wider issues of food waste, examining how the European Union is stepping up the fight with “landmark” laws and how suppliers are working towards a circular economy. Read more here.