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Waste initiatives

Supermarkets in the UK are ramping up their efforts to tackle waste, with news this week that Tesco is to scrap some ‘best before’ labels in a bid to reduce food waste, while Morrisons is encouraging customers to bring in their own containers for purchases at its meat and fish counters to tackle plastic waste.

Consumer research often reveals confusion surrounding ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labelling on food and drink items, and Tesco says its latest move follows a recent campaign by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) into causes of food waste, which found that less than half of respondents understood the meaning of ‘best before’ dates. More than 70% of people polled by NFWI correctly identified the meaning of ‘use by’ labels, however.

As a result, Tesco will remove ‘best before’ consumption guidance dates from around 70 of its fruit and vegetable products to help prevent edible food being binned.

Tesco head of food waste Mark Little explains, “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.”

The ‘best before’ date is about quality rather than safety, and while many consumers already assess fruit and veg on the look of the product rather than relying on ‘best before’ coding, there is still work to be done. This initiative has the potential to be rolled out to other food and drink categories, as well as being adopted by other retailers. We look forward to seeing any findings Tesco is willing to share.

The move by Morrisons, meanwhile, is part of its commitment to reduce plastic pollution, announced earlier this year. Starting this month, the company is allowing customers to use their own containers for meat and fish purchases from the Morrisons’ Market Street Butcher and Fishmonger counters. The products are weighed at the counter and sent away in customers’ own packaging with the price label attached.

Again, this is something that could be adopted by fellow supermarkets.

In the fight against waste – be it food or plastic – it’s great to see any initiatives being trialled. Hopefully successful ones will become best practice sooner rather than later.

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