British supermarkets Waitrose announced on Monday that they are withdrawing recommended consumption dates for almost 500 products in a bid to avoid discouraging their customers from consuming food that is still good in a bid to fight food waste.
From September, Waitrose will remove “best before” labels, an indicative date after which a product is safe to eat, from nearly 500 fresh produce, particularly packaged fruit and vegetables, the company said in a statement.
4.5 million tons of edible waste
This measure “aims to reduce the volume of food waste in UK households by asking customers to use their judgement” when deciding whether a product is still edible, this high-end supermarket chain added.
“Food waste is still a huge problem” and UK households “throw away 4.5 million tonnes of edible food every year,” says Marija Rompani, sustainability director for department store group John Lewis, Waitrose’s parent company.
7 million grocery baskets could be saved
Essentially linked to the taste or nutritional quality of a product, the best-before date is equivalent in France to the “best before” date.
On the other hand, the “use by” (use before) notice that appears on perishable products is a mandatory notice and failure to comply carries health risks, as does the sell-by date across the Channel. “We estimate that removing dates from fresh fruit and vegetables could save the equivalent of 7 million baskets of food from the bin,” Waitrose said.
The company is following in the footsteps of other British brands, such as industry giant Tesco, which removed the best before date on a hundred products from 2018, or more recently Marks and Spencer, who did the same on 300 references.
Morrisons, another supermarket chain, announced in January it would be dropping the sell-by date rather than the recommended date for 90% of its store-brand milk, and encouraged customers to smell the contents of the bottle to know it’s always good.