M&S to scrap best before dates across fresh produce to curb food waste

Marks and Spencer has announced it will remove best before dates on over 300 fresh produce items, in an attempt to curb food waste and encourage more sustainable choices from customers.

m and s fresh produce

Following a successful trial, up to 85 per cent of its fruit and vegetables lines will see the replacement of a best before date with a new code, which Marks and Spencer store workers can use to ensure quality in its products.

As the retailer aims to reach net-zero across its supply chain by 2040, the move seeks to encourage shoppers to throw away less edible food at home – rather than being guided by the date, customers can rather use their own judgement to determine the freshness of items.

This comes as part of Marks and Spencer’s Plan A Sustainability roadmap, which aims to halve food waste by 2030, with a 100 per cent redistribution of edible surplus by 2025.

Other initiatives taken by the supermarket to meet these goals include their partnership with Neighbourly, a community initiative platform, overseeing the donation of surplus foods to food banks and communities, and a scheme to reuse unsold baguettes and boules to make frozen garlic bread.

According to the retailer’s latest Family Matters Index, a data resource measuring the priorities and challenges of families across the UK, 72 per cent of UK families are consciously trying to reduce food waste, with Northern Ireland being the most ambitious. The data also reveals that 55 per cent of families see the importance of shops making it easier for patrons to make more sustainable choices.

Andrew Clappen, Director of Food Technology at Marks and Spencer, 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.

“The other side of the challenge is making sure anything edible we don’t sell reaches those who need it most. By partnering with Neighbourly since 2015 we’ve ensured over 44 million meals are redistributed to local communities. Our promise as we aim for our target of halving food waste is to keep searching for solutions while we maintain the standards and value our customers expect.”

WRAP’s Director of Collaboration and Change, Catherine David, added: “We’re thrilled to see this move from M and 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. See Love Food Hate Waste for tips on how to reduce food waste, save money and fight climate change – did you know that storing most fruit and veg in the fridge, below 5C, at home, can extend their life span by days, weeks and even months (in the case of apples and potatoes)?”

The decision echoes the findings of a recent WRAP report calling for the end of unnecessary plastic packaging and best before labels on fruit and vegetables. Urging supermarkets to alter the sale of fresh produce accordingly, the organisation claimed this could lead to a 100,000 tonne reduction in food waste and 10,300 tonnes of plastic being saved from landfill.

In April, a similar move was taken by supermarket Co-op, which announced the scrapping of use-by dates on its own-brand yoghurt for best before dates, in an attempt to curb food waste in UK households. Labels instead adopted a best-before date, referring to product quality rather than food safety. According to the retailer, the rollout could save 42,000 tonnes of edible yoghurt from being thrown out each year.

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