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Waitrose joins ranks of UK retailers ditching best before dates

Waitrose will remove best before dates on nearly 500 fresh products including root vegetables, fruits such as grapes, citrus, apples as well as indoor plants from September. The move is designed to reduce the volume of food waste occurring in UK households by inviting customers to use their own judgement. Citing figures from WRAP, it estimates food waste continues to be a major issue and in the UK alone 70% of all food wasted is by people in their own homes.

Marija Rompani, Director of Sustainability & Ethics, John Lewis Partnership, said: “UK households throw away 4.5 millions tonnes of edible food every year, meaning that all the energy and resources used in food production is wasted. By removing best before dates from our products, we want our customers to use their own judgement 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.”

“The objective builds on our existing commitment to help our customers reduce their food waste by 2030. By working with WRAP to bring this initiative to life, we’re delighted to help our customers play their own role in tackling this global issue.”

In the UK, best before dates are designed to showcase food quality for customers, rather than safety. Food is at its best before this date, however it should still be OK to eat after this date has passed. Waitrose is therefore encouraging customers to use their judgement to check food quality before consuming. ‘Use by’ dates will still be in place across products for safety. Eating food after its ‘use by’ date (‘unless it has been frozen on or before its use by date) could result in food poisoning.

Catherine David, Director of Collaboration and Change at WRAP said: “Wasting food feeds climate change and it costs people money. Best Before dates on fruit and veg are unnecessary and create food waste because they get in the way of people using their judgement 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. We estimate that removing dates on fresh fruit and veg could save the equivalent of 7 million shopping baskets of food from the bin, which is huge! There is loads more that we can do to tackle food waste together – for fresh produce it’s also really important to store it in the fridge, and knock the temperature down to below 5°C. WRAP found that apples last more than two months longer when refrigerated, and broccoli two weeks longer.”

The Waitrose announcement follows a similar move from M&S to urge customers to throw away less edible food at home by using their judgement. In July, it announced best-before dates will be removed from the labelling of over 300 fruit and vegetable products – 85% of M&S’ produce offering – including commonly wasted items apples, potatoes and broccoli. Dates will be replaced with a new code which M&S store colleagues will use to ensure freshness and quality is maintained.

In April, Co-op replaced best-before dates with use-by dates on all of its own-brand yoghurts. Morrisons adopted a similar move on its milks, urging shoppers to use a ‘sniff test’ at home to decide whether their milk is still good to drink.

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