Co-op to sell food past its best before date for 10p

East of England Co-op pioneers policy aimed at cracking down on food waste

East of England Co-Op
(Image credit: East of England Co-Op)

The largest independent food retailer in East Anglia has started to sell food produce that has gone past its best before date, in a first for the UK .

Tinned food and dry goods such as rice, crisps and pasta that have passed their best before date will now go on sale for a flat price of 10p at East of England Co-op stores, as part of a campaign to combat the UK’s food waste problem.

“Don’t be a binner. Have it for dinner!” campaign was rolled out this week at 125 stores in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex belonging to East of England Co-op, which is independent of the nationwide Co-operative Group.

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The offer “will not apply to fresh and perishable foods”, says The Guardian. Fresh food carries a “use by” date that indicates when the food may cease to be safe to consume, whereas best before dates are only a guideline to indicate optimum quality.

Eligible items will remain on shelves for a month beyond their best before date, but East of England Co-op joint chief executive Roger Grosvenor’s comments suggest they may not last that long.

“During our trial we found our 10p items went within hours of being reduced, sometimes quicker,” he told industry magazine The Grocer.

He added that the change was “not a money-making exercise” but was instead motivated by social responsibility and a desire to tackle rampant food waste.

Every year, 7.3 million tonnes of food are thrown away uneaten by UK shoppers, the BBC reports.

"The vast majority of our customers understand they are fine to eat and appreciate the opportunity to make a significant saving on some of their favourite products,” Grosvenor said.

Judging by the reception the announcement met with on Twitter, the majority of UK consumers have few qualms about eating nonperishable food a little past its prime:

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Although some displayed a disregard for dates that probably won’t be replicated in your local supermarket anytime soon:

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East of England Co-op’s pioneering policy change “may spark similar or even wider initiatives by larger rivals,” says the BBC’s Joe Lynam, but so far no other retailer has announced similar plans.

Tesco and Waitrose said that they donated nonperishable expired items to charities, while several supermarkets allow staff to buy unsold food on or after its expiry date for reduced prices.

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