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Food Safety Training, Auditing & Management

Supermarket chain plans to sell food up to a month past its best-before date in efforts to reduce waste

A supermarket chain is to introduce a scheme selling food that is up to a month beyond its "best-before" date in an attempt to drastically reduce waste.

From 4th December, shoppers at the Co-op's 125 east of England stores will be able to buy a range of out of date (best before) products for just 10p. Best before dates are used to denote quality rather than indicate whether food is safe to eat.

The range available will include a large range of items including tinned goods, such as fruit and beans, dried food such as packet goods, rice, pasta, crisps, confectionery and cereals.

The scheme does not include any products with a ‘Use By’ date, which is legal term including meat, fish and dairy. This is the first time a major UK food retailer has begun selling food outside its best before date and it is thought others might follow if it proves successful.

The ever rising quantities of food waste has become a major issue, with government estimating that around £16 billion worth of produce – equivalent to £700 for every UK household – is thrown away each year.

There will be a large amount of waste includes perishable items that are no longer safe for human consumption (past their use by date) but it is thought the confusion about labelling system means a huge amount of perfectly edible food goes in the bin.

The Food Standards Agency advises that products past their best before date are safe to consume but may not be of the best quality, bread, cakes etc.

Unfortunately the current rules mean charities are not allowed to accept food after its best before date has expired and so much of it had to be thrown away, even though it may be fine to eat.

East of England Co-op has estimated that the initiative could save around two million tonnes of food from being wasted at its stores each year.

The company decided to launch the initiative following a successful three-month trial in 14 of its branches, where 10p items were sold out very quickly, thus reducing food waste.

Joint chief executive Roger Grosvenor said: "This is not a money-making exercise, but a sensible move to reduce food waste and keep edible food in the food chain.

By selling perfectly edible food, we can save 50,000 plus items every year that would otherwise have gone to waste.

During our trial we found 10p items went within hours of being reduced, sometimes quicker. The majority of customers understand they are fine to eat."

Oli Watts, of the East of England Co-Op, added: “We want our members and customers to enjoy their food, confident in the knowledge that products past their best before date are safe to eat and that they are contributing towards reducing unnecessary food waste.”

A spokesman for WRAP, the food waste charity, has welcomed the initiative.

The spokesman said: “We have been calling on everyone to unite in the food waste fight, and this latest development by Co-Op is an interesting and bold move.

Whilst "use-by" date labels indicate when a product is safe to eat, "best before" date labels only refer to when food is at its best.

As such it is perfectly safe to sell food at or after its best before date. Providing that the discounted items are not damaged in any way, this promotion is compliant with the latest guidelines produced by WRAP, Defra and the FSA on date labels and food redistribution.

We look forward to seeing the results of this promotion, and hope it means less cost for people and less waste."

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