U.K. Grocery Store Removes 'Best Before' Dates on Produce

Tesco is getting rid of 'best before' labels on produce after a study showed most shoppers mistook the meaning. (Photo: Linda Bestwick/Shutterstock)

To tackle the problem of food waste, the British grocery chain Tesco, the third largest retailer in the world, is overhauling its produce department to decrease the amount of fresh food wasted at its stores.

The company announced it was removing "best before" labels from nearly 70 vegetable and fruit packages. The decision was made after a National Federation of Women's Institutes released a poll showing that less than half of people knew the meaning of best before dates.

"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. We have made this change to fruit and vegetable packaging as they are among the most wasted foods. 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," said Tesco Head of Food Waste Mark Little.

Bagged salad is a prime example

Is this bag of salad mix as nutritious as you think it is?. (Photo: stanga/Shutterstock)

Bagged salad is one of the best selling items in the chain of stores. After completing a study in 2013, Tesco found that 68 percent of bagged salads are eventually thrown away. Thirty-five percent of that waste happens after shoppers take the salads home.

I can believe that 35 percent. I haven’t bought a bagged salad in a very long time because some, if not all, of it usually ended up going to waste. I bought the salad with the very best of intentions, and those intentions died a slow, mushy death in the crisper.

Tesco is not only trying to find a solution for the waste that happens on its supermarket shelves. It’s also trying to solve the problem of people like me who allow their bagged salads to go to waste at home. How? The Guardian reported Tesco ended “multi-buys” on the large size salad bags and developed “mix and match promotions” on smaller size bags.

The store will also help combat food waste at home by giving shoppers tips on how to properly store produce to help in last longer and how to use leftover fresh bread from the bakery department. In 2013, half of the bread from Tesco’s bakery department gets wasted.

Tesco’s CEO Phillip Clarke says the company wants to lead in reducing food waste beyond its own operations. It wants to make a difference “from the farmer’s field to the customer’s fridge and beyond.”

I like this approach. By starting with the items bought most frequently, Tesco will not only help lessen food waste, it will help those consumers who pay attention to the store’s tips to save money. By now, we’re all familiar with crazy amount of money that’s wasted when food gets thrown out. Here in the U.S., it’s not unusual for people to throw away 40 percent of the food they bring home.

Would you use tips from your grocery store to help you lessen the food waste in your own home?