Should ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates be reimagined to reduce waste?
Marks & Spencer is taking “best before” dates off more than 300 fruit and vegetable items in an effort to curb food waste.
The affected items cover 85 percent of M&S’s produce offerings, including commonly wasted items such as apples, potatoes and broccoli. M&S will replace the dates with a code to enable store associates to ensure freshness and quality are maintained.
M&S has committed to halving its own food waste by 2030, but is also helping shoppers along the way. M&S’s latest Family Matters Index found that 72 percent of UK families are taking steps to reduce household waste.
“Our teams and suppliers work hard to deliver fresh, delicious, responsibly sourced produce at great value and we need to do all we can to make sure none of it gets thrown away,” said Andrew Clappen, director of food technology, in a statement. “To do that, we need to be innovative and ambitious — removing best before dates where safe to do so, trialing new ways to sell our products and galvanizing our customers to get creative with leftovers and embrace change.”
Seventy percent of the UK’s food waste is thrown away in homes, according to the Waste & Resources Action Program (Wrap). Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at the charity, said, “We urge more supermarkets to get ahead on food waste by axing date labels from fresh produce, allowing people to use their own judgment.”
“Best before” refers to when the product should be consumed to get the best quality, taste and texture. “Use by” labels estimate the dates until which perishable food can be cooked and consumed safely.
Kroger and Walmart are among U.S. chains that have committed to stop sending their unsold food to landfills, but consumer educational pushes to reduce food waste are more common in the U.K.
Tesco removed “best before” dates for much of its produce in 2018. In January of this year, Morrisons replaced “use by” with “best before” dates on most of its milk while encouraging consumers to use a “sniff test” to check quality. In April, Co-op Food replaced “use by” with “best before” dates for its yogurt.
- M&S Removes Best Before Dates Across Fruit And Veg In Bid To Tackle Food Waste – Marks & Spencer
- M&S scraps ‘best before’ dates on fruit and veg to cut food waste – BBC
- Morrisons scraps ‘use by’ date on milk in favour of sniff test – BBC
- Co-op supermarket scraps yoghurt use-by dates in bid to cut food waste – BBC
- Tesco ditches ‘best before’ dates on more fruit and veg – BBC
- The Messy Truth About Food Expiration Dates – BBC
- The truth, and strategy, of food expiration dates – CNN
- Should ‘best by’ dates expire? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is it time for food manufacturers and grocers in the U.S. to rethink “best before” and “use by” dates to help reduce food waste? What alternatives would benefit consumers and the environment the most?