The company expects that the strategy will keep consumers from discarding food that is still good, which will reduce food waste.
"U.K. households throw away 4.5 million tons of edible food every year, meaning that all the energy and resources used in food production are wasted," Marija Rompani, director of sustainability and ethics at Waitrose's parent company said.
"By removing best-before dates from our products, we want our customers to use their own judgment to decide whether a product is good to eat or not, which in turn will increase its chances of being eaten and not becoming waste."
The British government's Waste Resources Action Program (WRAP) estimates that the number of fresh food products saved in the U.K. by the removal of best-before dates could amount to seven million shopping baskets worth of food, with potatoes, bread and milk being the ones most wasted. (Related: Why home gardening and food preservation is the best form of food insurance.)
"Best-before dates, unlike use-by dates, are used only as a guide for the consumer regarding food quality. Use-by dates are intended to indicate the safety of the product.
Food waste is an endemic issue that still adds pressure on already acutely strained supply chains across the globe, which had been hit hard by the ballooning inflation, incredible heat waves and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Waitrose is not the only supermarket that scrapped best-before dates. Tesco got rid of best-before dates on more than 100 fresh foods in 2018, while Marks & Spencer did away with their own best-before dates on over 300 fruits and vegetables.
The removal of the dates is intended to help the environment by reducing the carbon impact on food production, but it will also lower costs for consumers and supermarkets themselves.
"By using up existing fresh food in our homes, we can also save on our weekly household food shop, which is becoming an increasingly pressing concern for many," Rompani said.
Grocery chain Morrisons said it has plans to urge customers to employ a "sniff test" for milk instead of use-by dates. (Related: Use by, best by, expires after: How to know if your food is still safe to eat.)
Milk & More, which is the largest residential milk delivery company in the U.K., is also making an effort to reduce its use of milk bottles to less than 500,000 per year. There had been a big jump in the prices for glass, and the company is employing tactics to increase the amount each milk bottle can be used by 15 percent.
Best-before dates on fresh fruits and vegetables only add to the climate crisis, and are not needed, WRAP experts said.
Best-before dates on fruit and vegetable only get in the way of people using their judgment when food is still good to eat. "We are absolutely delighted by this move from Waitrose, which will help stop good food ending up in the bin," said Catherine David, collaboration and change director at WRAP.
"There are loads more that we can do to tackle food waste together – for fresh produce, it’s also really important to store it in the fridge and knock the temperature down to below 5°C. WRAP found that apples last more than two months longer when refrigerated, and broccoli two weeks longer," David said.
Among the 500 packaged fresh products that Waitrose will be removing the best-before dates will include lettuce, cucumber, peppers, potted herbs, salad onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, celery, potatoes and other root vegetables, leeks, melons and exotic fruits.
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