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

Marks & Spencer is 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.

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Fruit and vegetables, including popular commonly-wasted items such as apples and potatoes, make up 85 per cent of M&S’s produce offering.

Marks and Spencer will remove best before dates from more than 300 fruit and vegetable products

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

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.

In January this year, Morrisons announced its plan to remove “use by” dates from 90 per cent 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.”

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Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at the Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap), said: “We’re thrilled to see this move from M&S, which 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.

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

Earlier this year, the Co-op scrapped use-by dates on all its own-brand yogurts.

The company said six million people in the UK eat a yogurt every day, but research from charity Wrap shows that half are thrown away in unopened packs, mainly because of not being used in time.

Nick Cornwell, of the Co-op, said: “Yogurt can be safe to eat if stored unopened in a fridge after the date mark shown, so we have made the move to best-before dates to help reduce food waste.

“The acidity of yogurt acts as a natural defence and we’d encourage shoppers to use their judgment on the quality of their yogurt if it is past the best-before date.

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“It’s our ambition to help our members and customers to make small changes that will collectively make a big impact and combat unnecessary food waste.

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