M&S removes ‘best before’ dates from fruit and vegetables to tackle food waste

M&S is aiming to significantly reduce food waste from its products by 2030. Credit: PA

Marks & Spencer is planning to remove “best before” dates from more than 300 fruit and vegetable products in a bid to reduce food waste.

Beginning this week, the 137-year-old retailer will scrap the dates from fresh produce across its stores, following a successful trial. The company hopes the move will encourage customers to use their judgment to decide when food is no longer suitable to eat. Fruit and vegetables, including popular commonly-wasted items such as apples and potatoes, make up 85% of M&S’s produce offering.

Best before dates will be replaced by a code that M&S staff can use to check freshness and quality. Credit: PA

“Best before” dates on these products will be replaced by a new code through which M&S store staff can check freshness and quality.

Best before labels are different from “use by” dates, which indicate a safety risk if ignored. M&S has committed to halve food waste by 2030 as part of its sustainability roadmap, with all of its edible surplus to be redistributed by 2025. It has also taken other steps to reduce food waste, such as using unsold baguettes and boule loaves to make frozen garlic bread. Other retailers have made similar decisions in recent years, with Tesco scrapping best-before dates on more than 100 fruit and vegetable products in 2018.

Tesco, Morrisons and Co-op are among supermarkets that have scrapped "use by" dates on some of their items.

In January this year, Morrisons announced its plan to remove “use by” dates from 90% of its own brand milk and encouraged customers to use a “sniff test” instead before throwing products away. Andrew Clappen, director of food technology at M&S, said: “We’re determined to tackle food waste – our teams and suppliers work hard to deliver fresh, delicious, responsibly-sourced produce at great value and we need to do all we can to make sure none of it gets thrown away. “To do that, we need to be innovative and ambitious – removing ‘best before’ dates where safe to do so, trialling new ways to sell our products, and galvanising our customers to get creative with leftovers and embrace change.” Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at the Waste & Resources Action Programme welcomed the move, which she said will "reduce food waste and help tackle the climate crisis". “Removing dates on fresh fruit and veg can save the equivalent of seven million shopping baskets of food being binned in our homes," she said. “We urge more supermarkets to get ahead on food waste by axing date labels from fresh produce, allowing people to use their own judgment.”

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