As Tesco Ditches 'Best Before' Dates, Will Other Supermarkets Follow Suit?

Customers are “confused” about what the labels mean.

Tesco has removed “confusing” best before labels from a range of its own label fruit and vegetables.

The supermarket, which is the largest in the UK, says it will remove all labels from 70 packs of fresh food including apples, onions, tomatoes and potatoes.

Tesco Head of Food Waste, Mark Little, said it was removing them as some customers are “confused” about what the labels mean.

This is because they often have a best before and a use-by date. Best before denotes only to the quality of the food, whereas use-by indicates when it should be eaten by.

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“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,” he said. “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.”

The move was celebrated by WRAP, a charity campaigning against food waste, which estimates 10 million tonnes of food are wasted each year. The charity said Tesco was not the first supermarket to move away from labelling fresh foods. A 2015 survey of retailers found 29% of packs of apples, 18% of carrots and 6% of potatoes had no label.

HuffPost has asked other major supermarkets whether they had similar schemes in place or if they planned to follow suit.

Lidl said it already chooses not to print best before dates on 90% of its fruit and veg, which it said helps to encourage consumers to assess products themselves and prolongs shelf-life and “mitigate unnecessary waste”.

Aldi said it uses best before dates on fresh produce and said there’s no current plans to change this.

Waitrose said: “We communicate to customers that fruit and vegetables are fine to eat after the Best Before date, but we keep it on packs and reduce the price when the date is near - because we want customers to buy our food when it’s at its best. We donate unsold food through FareShare.”

Morrisons declined to comment.

Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Coop had not responded at the time of writing but this article will be updated when they do.