The UK’s biggest supermarket has vowed to remove the advice from around 70 pre-packaged produce lines to avoid as much food waste.
Tesco has said that to avoid “perfectly edible food” being thrown away they will lose the labels on apples, potatoes, tomatoes, lemons, other citrus fruits and onions.
Commenting on this, Mark Little, Tesco’s head of food waste said: “We know some customers may be confused by the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates on food and this can lead to perfectly edible items being thrown away before they need to be discarded.”
Little added that fruit and vegetables were the items which were most frequently thrown away by customers.
Despite this according to Tesco, many consumers already ignore their “best before” labels.
“Many customers have told us that they assess their fruit and vegetables by the look of the product rather than the ‘best before’ date code on the packaging,” Little said.
Tesco said removing the information on the label will encourage consumers to make their own judgment about the freshness of the produce.
However, all the items which will be affected by the removals of labels will be those sold in bags or boxes – which are harder to handle. Individual items do not have “best before labels anyway.
Although customers would not be able to differentiate between bags of produce to determine how fresh they are, Tesco will ensure that there are “rigorous stock rotation procedures in place” to take away older items of stock.
What do the labels mean?
- Use By – Cannot be sold, redistributed or consumed after this date. Applied to foods which are highly perishable – such as fresh fish, meat and poultry – and therefore constitute an immediate danger to human health
- Best Before – Can be sold, redistributed and consumed after this date. Applied to all other kinds of food
- Some products aren’t legally required to carry a date label
- Only one date label is recommended for each food item
New guidance published to help food and drink businesses set product shelf-life
A body representing Britain’s food and drink manufacturers has published new guidelines to help firms label product shelf-life, targeting improved safety standards and waste reduction.
Via a new online document, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has sought to clarify the difference between “use by” and “best before” dates, and has offered practical advice based on common misinterpretations of standards, a list of dos and don’ts and a glossary of terms.
The organisation hopes the new guidelines will support both food safety and waste reduction among large and small manufacturers.
By using the guide, the FDF claimed producers would be able to assign the most appropriate expiry date for any product.
Commenting on the new guidelines, Helen Munday, the FDF’s chief scientific officer, said it would act as an essential resource for owners of food and drink businesses.
“This easy to use document will guide food and drink manufacturers in assigning and labelling the shelf-life of products appropriately,” she explained.
“It is our ambition to help manufacturers and those who consume our products ensure the highest levels of food safety alongside meeting waste reduction targets. This is part of our contribution to our own environmental Ambition 2025, as well as wider targets, such as the Courtauld Commitment 2025.”
Heather Hancock, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, agreed that reducing food waste, without compromising the safety of food was a commitment shared with the FDF.
She added: “I welcome the publication of this sensible guidance on setting product shelf life, and explaining what factors affect the expiry date of a food product. This is another welcome step towards preventing safe food from going to waste.”
The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) charity also threw its support behind the guide. WRAP’s special advisor, Andrew Parry, said a product shelf-life was vital to food quality and safety, and in avoiding unnecessary waste.
“WRAP welcomes this new guidance for manufacturers from the FDF, which will complement our own broader guidance on date labelling and storage advice, which has been developed with Defra and the Food Standards Agency and will be published later this year,” Parry said.
Here’s all you need to know before running a small food business
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