Marks & Spencer will remove “best before” dates from more than 300 fruit and vegetable products this week.
Following a successful trial, the retailer will scrap dates from fresh produce across its stores and encourage customers to use their judgement to decide when food can no longer be eaten.
In the UK, more than two million tonnes of food that is still edible goes to waste, according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
Fruits and vegetables are some of the most commonly-wasted items in households, particularly apples and potatoes.
They make up 85 per cent of M&S’s produce offering.
The “best before” dates on fresh produce will be replaced by a new code that enables M&S staff to check freshness and quality.
The retailer committed to halve food waste by 2030 as part of its sustainability roadmap.
It also aims to have all of its edible surplus be redistributed by 2025.
Other steps M&S has taken to reduce food waste includes using unsold baguettes and boul loaves to make frozen garlic bread.
The move follows other supermarkets that have made similar decisions on “best before” dates.
In 2018, Tesco scrapped “best before” dates on more than 100 fruit and vegetable products, while Morrisons announced its plan to remove “use by” dates from 90 per cent of its own brand milk in January this year.
Morrisons encouraged customers to use a “sniff test” before throwing products away instead of adhering strictly to the “use by” or “best before” dates.
According to WRAP’s guidance on “best before dates”, published in April 2020, many food items that are past they’re dates “remains safe and perfectly good to eat for days, weeks, months or even years” afterwards.
Jamie Crummie, co-founder of food waste app Too Good To Go, said in WRAP’s report: “Date labelling has, and continues to be, a confusing issue for both businesses and consumers.
“This uncertainty could lead to food waste on a large scale across society. For example, last year we found that 720 million eggs are wasted by Brits each year because of confusions around ‘best before’ date labelling.
“‘Best before’ is simply a measure of quality rather than safety and we welcome the latest guidance from WRAP for food business and redistribution organisations on the issue.”
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.”
Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at WRAP, added: “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 judgement.”