Is it time to ignore ‘best before’?


Marks & Spencer is the latest supermarket ditching ‘best before’ labels in a bid to reduce food waste

The ‘best before’ labels on supermarket foods were designed to help customers but their impact on food waste means they’re causing more problems than they’re solving. This week Marks & Spencer announced their plan to remove ‘best before’ labels from 300 varieties of fruit and veg to help reduce food waste.

They’re not alone either. Tesco ditched ‘best before’ labels on their own-brand produce back in 2018, Lidl doesn't include ‘best before’ information at all and Morrisons said goodbye to the labels in January this year.

Note: ‘best before’ dates differ from ‘use by’ dates, which are included if there could be a risk to safety if ignored.

This change means customers will need to use their own judgement more, but it could make a big difference in the battle to reduce food waste. These moves by supermarkets will help the UK’s commitment to meet the United Nations goal of halving food waste by 2030 compared with 2007.

Food waste charity Wrap estimates that 45% of global greenhouse gas emissions can only be reduced by making changes in the way we consume products and food. By saying goodbye to ‘best before’ labels on produce, Wrap says we can save the equivalent of 7 million shopping baskets of food a year.

Catherine David, a director at Wrap, said: “We’re thrilled to see this move from M&S, which will reduce food waste and help tackle the climate crisis.

“We urge more supermarkets to get ahead on food waste by axing date labels from fresh produce, allowing people to use their own judgement.”

Not sure how to tell when your food is potentially unsafe to eat? Here are some signs to look out for:

  • a slimy film
  • visible mould
  • a rancid smell
  • discolouration
  • unusual texture

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