Should expiration dates be removed in view of waste?
In the fight against food waste, UK supermarkets are removing the use-by date of certain products.
In UK supermarkets, some products will no longer have an expiration date… to fight food waste. Supermarket chain Waitrose announced on Monday that it would withdraw the “best before” label, which means “preferably consume” in French, on nearly 500 fresh products, particularly fruit and vegetables in packs. The aim is to discourage consumers from throwing away good products.
The brand urges its customers to simply use good judgment and common sense before consuming the product – across the Channel, UK households would throw away 4.5 million tonnes of still edible food every year.
The “best before” indication, which corresponds to the best before date in French regulations, is purely indicative and essentially linked to the quality of taste or appearance, but there is no health risk if it is exceeded. On the other hand, the notice “consume by” (use before) that appears on perishable products is a mandatory notice and its non-observance involves health risks equivalent to the expiry date in France.
Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons…
Waitrose is following in the footsteps of other UK supermarkets, such as Tesco, which dropped recommended consumption dates for a hundred products from 2018, or more recently Marks and Spencer, who did the same for 300 references. Morrisons announced in January it was removing the use-by date on 90% of its private label milk and is asking customers to smell the contents of the bottle to know if it’s still good.
The French distributors are also beginning to take up the issue, albeit a little more hesitantly. Carrefour, for example, has extended the date of certain products such as yoghurts by 5 to 10 days, while salt, oil and vinegar sold under its brand no longer have an expiry date. In France, an average of 29 kilos are thrown away per person per year. The European Commission estimated in 2011 that a poor understanding of dates contributes to 20% of food waste.