Tesco ditches fruit and veg best-before dates

Almost 200 products will lose freshness guidelines in war on waste

Supermarket fruit and vegetables
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Tesco has announced that almost 200 fresh fruits and vegetables will no longer come with a best-before date, in a bid to combat food waste.

Items that will no longer display a guideline date on the packaging include “own-brand apples, oranges, cabbages and asparagus”, The Guardian reports.

The retailer began experimenting with the idea in May, when it removed best-before dates from close to 70 of its own-brand lines of fruits and vegetables.

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The move followed an anti-waste campaign led by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, whose research found that less than half of consumers understand the meaning of best-before guidelines.

Unlike a use-by date, best-before labels are intended as a guide to the freshness and quality of food rather than as a safety warning. This misunderstanding is thought to contribute to the 7.3 million tonnes of edible food discarded by UK shoppers every year.

“According to government statistics, £13 billion worth of food was wasted in the UK in 2015,” says industry news site Farming UK.

Research commissioned by Tesco showed that 69% of customers backed removing best-before dates from fresh produce, and more than half agreed that doing so would help them cut their own food waste, The Guardian reports.

The success of the scheme has encouraged the retailer to take the date labels off a further 116 products.

Tesco’s initiative follows the launch of a campaign by sustainability charity Wrap and the Institute of Grocery Distribution which aims to halve UK food waste by 2030 by targeting the UK’s largest 250 food industry firms.

Mark Little, Tesco’s head of food waste reduction, said the current volume of food waste in the UK was “simply not right”.

“Removing best-before dates is our way of making it easier for customers to reduce food waste at home and save money in the process,” he said.

However, some suspected an ulterior motive behind the decision, arguing that removing best-before dates took away consumer choice and could allow retailers to lumber unsuspecting customers with past-their-peak produce.

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