Asda scraps best before dates on more than 200 fruit and veg lines

WRAP estimates that the average UK family bins food worth £60 every month

From Thursday 1 September, customers will notice the removal of best before dates from Asda’s citrus fruits, potatoes, cauliflowers, carrots, and dozens of other fresh fruit and vegetable packets.

While ‘use by’ dates are applied to foods as a ‘deadline’, when a food presents a high food poisoning risk after a certain amount of time, ‘best before’ dates are guidelines for when to eat foods. Research from WRAP has repeatedly shown high levels of consumer confusion around these terms, which are commonly conflated or mixed up.

By removing best before dates, Asda hopes that shoppers will stop throwing away fruit and vegetables that are still perfectly good to eat. It will be publishing additional guidance on storing fresh fruit and vegetables and checking whether they are still good to use on its website to inform customers.

Store staff will be able to check how long products should be displayed for by scanning new codes that will be applied to items covered by the labelling change. This approach was adopted by Marks & Spencer (M&S) earlier this year, in a label change scheme that affected more than 300 product lines.

For Asda, the label change builds on several other interventions made in recent years. It has been working with FareShare since 2018 to redistribute surplus stock and claims to send no waste to landfill.

Yet the majority – around 70% – of the UK’s food waste is generated at the consumer stage of the life-cycle, not in the supply chain or at retailers. WRAP’s director of collaboration and change Catherine David said the non-profit is, therefore, “delighted” at Asda’s decision on labelling.

David said: “Our research has shown that date labels on fruit and veg are unnecessary – getting rid of them can prevent the equivalent of seven million shopping baskets’ worth from our household bins [each year]. Storing most fruit and veg products in the fridge, below 5C, will keep them fresher longer. The influence of no date label or the right date label on what we use and what we throw away is huge.

“We know that wasting food feeds climate change and costs us money.”

To David’s point on climate, WRAP research published last year stated that global food waste accounts for around 8-10% of annual emissions. The study found that most people are not aware of the link between wasted food and climate change. This trend may well change this year, with food supply chain shocks in the headlines and with homes seeking ways to save money on their groceries.

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