Tesco removes fruit and veg ‘best before’ dates

The UK's largest supermarket has revealed plans to remove "best before" dates from more than 100 of its fruit and vegetable lines, as it strives to meet a target to halve its food waste output by 2025.

Tesco announced on Monday (8 October) that it would begin removing “best before” dates from a further 116 of its produce products, after removing them from around 70 lines earlier this year.

Apples, cabbages and asparagus are among the products which will be affected, after the move proved successful for potatoes, citrus fruits and tomatoes. 

Tesco’s head of food waste, Mark Little, explained that the move will lessen confusion among customers who do not understand the difference between ‘best before’ dates, which indicate that the quality of a product may deteriorate, and ‘use by’ dates, which indicate when it becomes less safe to consume the food.

WRAP estimates that around 600,000 tonnes of consumer food waste are triggered each year due to the misunderstanding.

“It’s simply not right that food goes to waste and we’re going to do everything we can to help,” Little said.

“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.”

The move comes after research carried out by marketing agency Walnut Unlimited on behalf of Tesco found that 69% of consumers would welcome a switch to products without “best before” dates.

Of the 2,010 survey respondents, more than half (53%) said that they would keep food for longer if it did not carry a “best before” label.

The “best before” date phase-out also builds on Tesco’s pledge to halve food waste through its involvement with WRAP’s Courtauld 2025 Commitment, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The company’s chief executive Dave Lewis chairs a collaborative group – Champions 12.3 – aimed at reaching that particular goal.

Supply chain journey

The announcement from Tesco comes shortly after Lewis urged the global food and drink industry to take stronger action in becoming more transparent around food waste issues.

Speaking at the Champions 12.3 event in New York last month, Lewis urged “every country, major city and company involved in the food supply chain” to publish its food waste data annually.

“Every year, a third of the world’s food goes to waste – that’s the equivalent of 1.3 billion tonnes of food being thrown away and we think that’s simply not right,” Lewis said.

“We believe that what gets measured gets managed. Ultimately, the only way to tackle food waste is to understand the challenge – to know where in the supply chain food is wasted.”

In a bid to lead by example, Lewis explained that Tesco would require 27 of its largest suppliers to disclose food waste data for the first time by the end of 2018.

He also emphasised the fact that ten of the supermarket’s largest branded suppliers, including Mars and Unilever, had already committed to target, measure and act on their food waste by September 2019.

In the wake of the event, 88 organisations have joined Tesco in committing to reducing the UK’s annual £20bn food waste costs by adopting a new Roadmap from WRAP. The initiative encompasses the entire food supply chain, with producers, manufacturers, retailers, restaurants and food service companies announced as early adopters.

Sarah George

Comments (1)

  1. Ian Byrne says:

    I have noticed that Lidl fresh produce already lacks a sell by/best before date.

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