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Tesco launches plan to reduce food waste

The need for change

In a remarkable bid to tackle the UK’s food waste problem, Tesco will remove ‘best before’ labels from approximately 70 pre-packaged produce lines to prevent edible food from being wrongly deemed unsafe and thus, discarded.

The Food Standards Agency, the government body charged with protecting public health in relation to food in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, pleaded with the public and food suppliers last year to make more prudent decisions about what constitutes waste.

Previous system causing confusion

Confusion regarding the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates has long led to the disposal of food which is in fact perfectly safe to eat; a recent survey conducted by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes found that fewer than half of respondents fully understood what ‘best before’ means, which has likely led to the disposal of edible food.

In a joint statement, the FSA and anti-waste campaign group Wrap, suggested fewer foods should be labelled with ‘use by’ dates, to include pasteurised fruit drinks and hard cheese. They instead advocate for increased use of ‘best before’ dates, which simply imply that freshness may deteriorate after this date.

Addressing customer concerns

The products said to be ditching the label include apples, onions, tomatoes and citrus products; that is, ‘loose’ products which are already available to purchase individually and without a label. For those concerned that the change will lead to confusion about which shelved products are the freshest, Tesco have assured customers that there are “rigorous stock rotation procedures in place” to ensure older items do not wrongly remain on shelves.

A step in the right direction

Tesco aren’t the first big brand working hard to discourage food waste; last year the East of England Co-op began selling dried and tinned products that were beyond their ‘best before’ dates. The British Sandwich and Food to Go Association (BSA) also launched a campaign in 2017 in a bid to reduce needless waste and as a result, thousands of pre-packaged sandwiches which would’ve previously been thrown away, are now donated to homeless people. Research across five major retailers showed that this could potentially save up to 2000 tonnes of products going to waste each year -you can read more about the initiative here.

Just last year, we predicted that the BSA’s seminal scheme was a sign of things to come and we’re encouraged by the huge leaps that the industry has taken to reduce waste in such a short time period. Long may it continue.

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