Thought leadership

Tesco is removing “best before” labels from many of its fresh produce lines, which it says will help reduce waste. The supermarket will remove the advice from about 70 pre-packaged produce lines to avoid “perfectly edible food” being thrown away.

The items that will lose the label include apples, potatoes, tomatoes, lemons, other citrus fruit and onions.

“Best before” labels indicate that the quality of a product may deteriorate after the date indicated.

In contrast “use by” dates indicate when it becomes less safe to consume the food.

“We know some customers may be confused by the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates on food and this can lead to perfectly edible items being thrown away before they need to be discarded,” said Mark Little, Tesco’s head of food waste.

He said fruit and vegetables were among the food most frequently thrown away by consumers, although many are ignoring “best before” dates already.

“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,” he added.

Tesco said the change would encourage customers to make their own decisions about the freshness of produce.

However, all the produce affected will be items sold in bags or boxes and so are less easy to handle. Individual items, such as loose lemons or onions, already do not carry “best before” labels.

A recent survey by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes found that less than half of respondents understood what “best before” means.

However, more than 70% had a clear understanding of “use by” labels

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