Major UK supermarkets are joining the move to bin ‘best before’ dates on their fresh produce as a way to mitigate food waste, but it seems that the benefits are also felt among those looking to save money on food due to the rise in the cost of living.
There has been a race among major UK supermarkets to see which can hit their sustainability targets the quickest. Most recently, their sights have been set on scrapping the ‘best before’ dates on fresh produce in order to allow customers to choose for themselves when they think the produce is no longer good to use.
Waitrose was the first to get rid of the ‘best before’ dates, followed by Asda who removed them from almost 250 fresh fruits and vegetables products. The latest to denounce ‘best before’ dates is Sainsbury’s, which will be making changes to 276 of its own brand products from the end of August.
The change comes as research from the climate action group, WRAP, revealed that the average family throws away £60 worth of food and drink each month. By removing ‘best before’ dates and encouraging customers to decide themselves if the food is edible, retailers are aiming to reduce food waste in the home, and in the process, hopefully also save customers money.
It is reported that in the UK alone, food waste is responsible for an estimated 36 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) every year, according to WRAP. The charity has been advocating for the mitigation of food waste for a long time now, having announced that “‘best before’ dates shouldn’t be a barrier to redistribution” back in April 2020.
With the cost of living also infringing on customers’ spending money, Asda also rationalised that by removing ‘best before’ dates, customers can use produce for longer while also saving money by not having to replace items as often.
This is validated by the Food Standards Agency’s guidance which confirmed that, “the ‘best before’ date is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good”.
With studies confirming how wasteful our food habits are, and with the pressures of budgeting, attitudes toward ‘best before’ dates have drastically changed. According to The Guardian, Approved Food, a retailer that sells branded foods near their best-before dates at discounted prices, reportedly had more than 1,000 new customers in the first week of August this year. This is said to have been a “tenfold” increase compared with the same week in 2021.
Meanwhile, retailers such as Approved Foods allow shoppers to bulk-buy essential cupboard fillers that have gone past their ‘best before’ date at discounted prices, and with budgets stretching thin over the winter months, it seems that people will be looking to get the most out of their food.
To conclude, supermarkets have started scrapping their ‘best before’ dates as a way to become more sustainable, but due to the cost of living squeeze felt among British households, this has also become an opportunity to waste less food and to spend less.