Retailers step up plans to tackle food waste as supermarkets scrap hundreds of best before dates

The increased action from independents fol­lows Waitrose announc­ing the removal of best-before dates on nearly 500 fresh products

Independent retailers are stepping up efforts to re­duce food waste, following several supermarkets that have pledged to scrap hun­dreds of best-before dates. 

Scottish Fed member Dennis Williams, who runs Broadway Premier in Edinburgh, said he has actively engaged with his symbol group about ex­tending best-before dates on a selection of products. 

“We raised it with our development manager, and Premier has listened. We’re now seeing longer dates on products, from houmous to yoghurts, and that’s been very help­ful in reducing our food waste,” he said. 

Williams described smarter labelling as a “win-win-win” for suppli­ers, retailers and custom­ers. “It means the food gets sold and everyone reduces waste,” he added. “Products that are fine to eat, but we can’t sell, go into our soups sold in our deli. Surprisingly, despite the hot weather, soups sell all year round.” 

Bart Dalla Mura, of Tysoe Village Stores in Warwickshire, added that displaying fruit and vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower and apples loose had been a game-changer, both in reducing his food waste and encouraging custom­ers to be mindful of their own usage. 

“In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we ask cus­tomers to sanitise their hands and they pick what they need,” he said. “By displaying loose items, we are not throwing away pre-packed produce where one item may be unsaleable. We take out any item that is bad and keep out food that is per­fectly fine.” 

The increased action from independents fol­lows Waitrose announc­ing the removal of best-before dates on nearly 500 fresh products. The change will come into force in September and apply to products such as root vegetables, fruit and indoor plants. 

Last month, Marks & Spencer announced the removal of best-before dates on 300 fresh produce items, and in April, Co-op said it would scrap use-by dates on all own-brand products. A spokesperson for food-waste charity Wrap said: “We estimate that over a typical year, around half a billion pounds of food is likely to be thrown away from homes linked to a best-before date. A best-before date is only a quality guide. Use-by is the safety mark and is there to protect us. No food should be sold, redistributed or eaten after the use-by.” Marija Romapani, director of sustainability and ethics at Waitrose owner John Lewis Partnership, said retailers should encourage customers to “use their judgment to decide whether a product is good to eat or not”.

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