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Why Tesco is removing ‘best before’ dates on fresh produce

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Susan Devaney
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Tesco has announced it will no longer be labelling fresh fruit and vegetables with “confusing” ‘best before’ labels in a bid to reduce waste. 

From reducing our single use plastic usage to actively trying to recycle more efficiently, discussions of how we can protect our planet has been a big talking point in 2018 so far.

Now supermarkets are making changes to help reduce food waste across the country, too, with Tesco announcing that it will be scrapping the use of ‘best before’ labels on 70 of its own brand fruit and vegetables.

“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,” said Mark Little, Tesco’s head of food waste.

However many customers have already started ignoring the ‘best before’ labels placed on fresh produce.

“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,” he added.

The move comes after the National Federation of Women’s Institutes revealed that less than half of respondents understood what a ‘best before’ label means.

However, more than 70% of people fully understood a ‘use by’ label which carries a safety risk if eaten after the label’s date.

Loose items, such as onions and tomatoes, do not carry ‘best before’ labels. But produce currently sold in boxes or bags will be affected. 

Households in the UK throw away £13 billion of edible food each year

But what do the advice labels actually mean?

  • Use By: Cannot be consumed, sold or redistributed after this date. Used for perishable foods – such as meat, poultry and fresh fish – and therefore could affect a person’s health.
  • Best Before: Can be consumed, sold and redistributed after this date.

It’s important to note that some products aren’t legally required to carry a date label and one date label is required per product, according to Wrap.

Food waste is a major issue in the UK, according to Wrap, as households throw away an estimated £13 billion of edible food each year.

Which is why people have taken to Twitter to applaud the move.

“Pleased to see Tesco dropping ‘best before’ labels on fruit: consumers are quite capable of working out for themselves when fruit and veg is no longer good to eat,” one user wrote.

“Tesco is removing #bestbefore dates from packaging. Great news. This will help cut down on the millions of tonnes of food wasted in people’s homes each year,” another user wrote.

Let’s hope other supermarkets quickly follow suit.

Images: Unsplash 

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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