Tesco is removing “Best before” dates from almost 70 lines of fruit and vegetables.
Best before labels are a quality indication, showing products are no longer at their best but are still good to eat. “Use by” labels have to be put on all foods where there is a safety risk if they are eaten after that date.
Fresh, uncut fruit and vegetables do not legally have to carry a date label because they are included in a list of specific exemptions to the labelling regulations.
Guidelines published in November by WRAP, the government and the Food Standards Agency, urged brands to use only one date label. “Food businesses need to identify whether their product requires a ‘Use by’ date or whether a ‘Best before’ date would be more appropriate.”
On fresh produce, WRAP recommends that “based on currently available research it would be preferable for pre-packed uncut fresh produce to carry a ‘Best before’ date – to help consumers manage the food they buy, whilst maintaining quality and freshness”.
However, recent research conducted by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes found that fewer than half of shoppers understand the meaning of best before.
“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,” said Tesco head of food waste Mark Little. “We have made this change to fruit and vegetable packaging as they are among the most wasted foods.”
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called for the removal of best before dates from fresh produce in its report into food waste in England, published last year.
“It’s time for all supermarkets to follow suit and remove these unnecessary markers, and begin to reduce the UK’s mountains of food waste,” said EFRA chair Neil Parish.